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Long Term Sick Leave in the UK

While employers are often accustomed to offering paid sick leave to their ill or injured employees, many countries have a different approach depending on the amount of time the employee is away.  Being sick for a few days wont have much impact on a business, but if a key employee is ill for an extended period there may be unanticipated costs or requirements by local statutes.

Companies that are new to hiring in the UK and used to setting their own leave policies, will want to review carefully the laws that apply to long term sick leave in the UK.  The leave policies are employee-friendly, but also require authorization from the employer for long term sick leave to deter system abuse.

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Taking Sick Leave in the UK

When an employee is sick for less than seven days, they don’t have to offer any medical proof of the illness and can provide a self-certification form to the employer when they return (also the employer can request a medical certificate).

However, for any sickness longer than seven days the employee must give the employer a medical certificate called a Statement of Fitness for Work (‘Fit Note’) that details the reasons for the absence and is signed by a doctor. The Fit Note can be updated periodically upon request from the employer if the sickness continues.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in the UK

One common question we’re asked regarding sick leave in the UK is how much of the leave is paid.  In the UK this is known as Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and it is mandatory.  Under SSP the first three days are unpaid (waiting days) and starting on the fourth day (qualifying day) the employee will receive GBP 94.25 per week.

Client Case: Long Term Sickness in the UK

We had a client in the UK with an ill employee who was on extended sick leave and they wanted to know the local laws and procedures for long term sick leave.  We informed them about the Fit Note process and requirements for extended leave so they could confirm the nature and severity of the illness.

The SSP would need to be paid from 4 days up to 28 weeks with proper certification, and this a mandatory benefit for employees in the UK.  It is up to the employer if they want to offer more than the SSP as it may not be sufficient in some cases.  For example, with sicknesses of a few weeks it is a common practice to continue paying the full salary, but its not legally required.

Employee Returning to Work After Long Term Sick Leave in the UK

Another issue that can come up is how to manage an employee who returns to work after an extended illness if they need help.  The employer has an obligation to make changes to an employee’s working conditions if needed to accommodate some disability.  Known as ‘reasonable adjustments’, these changes might include shorter work hours or adapting equipment.

Sick Leave and Holidays in the UK

If an employee is unable to use their holiday entitlement due to illness, it can be carried over into the next year.  They can also use their holiday leave while they are off work sick, which some may elect due to the fact that holiday leave is fully paid unlike sick leave.

Do you need more information about employment in the UK?

The leave entitlements are fairly complex in the UK and you might have more questions such as:

Can an employee be legally terminated while on long term sick leave?

What are the employee’s rights after the 28-week paid leave period?

Can paid sick leave be detailed in the employment contract as long as it meets the SSP minimums?

Answering these types of questions and offering guidance is how we support our clients that hire employees abroad, and include other areas of immigration, payroll and compliance.  We make international employment simple.

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