An Overview of Sick Leave in the UK

sick leave uk


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We all get sick sometimes, this is why we have sick leave in the UK! It’s important that as an employee you know what your rights are, and how to go about requesting sick leave and what your entitlement to pay is if you’re struck down with sudden illness.

Let’s look at how sick leave works as per UK statutory leave regulations.

What is the statutory sick leave in the UK?

In the UK, employees have a right to time off work when they’re ill. There is no statutory sick leave entitlement, but some organisations might include days you can take off as paid or unpaid in your contract, so it’s important to check this.

Long-term sickness in the UK is when an employee is off work sick for more than 28 calendar days.

Fit notes

If you’re going to be off ill for more than 7 days, then you will need to give your employer proof of sickness or a fit note. Your 7 days will include any non-working days such as weekends or bank holidays.

In your sick note it will either say that you are ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’. In the case that the note says you ‘may be fit for work’ you’ll need to discuss this with your employer and find if there are any ways that you can return to work, if you’re unable to find an agreement then an employer must treat you as ‘not fit for work’. These discussions may include giving you alternate duties or allowing you to work from home.

You can get a fit note from any of the following healthcare professionals:

  • GP or hospital doctor
  • Registered nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Pharmacist
  • Physiotherapist

Allied Health Professional health and work report

Some employers might accept a document called an Allied Health Professional (AHP) health and work report instead of a fit note when you’re taking sick leave. However, this document cannot be used to apply for employment and support allowance.

Any of the following professionals can provide this:

  • Art Therapist
  • Dramatherapist
  • Chiropodist
  • Dietitian
  • Music therapist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Operating Department Practitioner
  • Orthoptist
  • Osteopath
  • Orthotist
  • Paramedic
  • Physiotherapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Prosthetist
  • Radiographer
  • Speech and language therapist

Statutory sick pay (SSP)

If you’re off work sick, then you can get statutory sick pay (SSP) as long as you meet the eligibility criteria:

  • You’re classed as an employee of the business
  • Earn an average of £123 per week
  • Have been ill for at least 4 calendar days in a row (including non-working days) 

This will be paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks per year. SSP  commences after the first 3 days that you’re off sick.  You would only be eligible for SSP for the first three days if you received SSP within the last 8 weeks, and that already included a 3-day waiting period before you were paid SSP. The SSP rates are updated most years so it’s important to check the current rates on the government website.

Sick leave FAQ’s

Can you go on holiday whilst on sick leave in the uk?

You are entitled to go on holiday whilst you are on long tern sick leave, but you will need to inform your employer so that they can adjust your payment accordingly.  There is no compulsion to classify this time as holiday – so the choice is yours.  You cannot however take time off work as ‘sick leave’ to specifically go on holiday.

Can I leave the house when off work sick?

Of course! There is no requirement to stay home just because you’re off work sick, even if you’re feeling too unwell to work – life goes on and sometimes things need to get done.

It would be important to consider what would be acceptable reasons to go out whilst off sick. For example, if you’re off work with a sickness bug, it might not be the best idea for a trip to the pub and this could result in a conversation with your employer when you return to work. But if you’re off work for mental health reasons or stress then it is totally acceptable to continue engaging in your normal activities such as going out, seeing friends and family, shopping etc.

How many days sick leave per year am I entitled to?

There is no legal number of sick days which an employee is entitled to in the UK. Employers might set their own number of days, but this information must be provided to employees.

Can you be made redundant while on sick leave?

You can be made redundant on sick leave; however, you can’t be made redundant because you’re sick. Redundancy decisions need to be based on the needs of the business. If an employer is going to make your role redundant whilst on sick leave, they still need to follow the usual redundancy process including a consultation meeting.

Can you be fired whilst on long-term sick leave?

The short answer is yes, but there are conditions. As a last resort an employer can dismiss an employee who is on long-term sick if there is no possibility that the employee can return to work. Employers must consider if an employee can return to work with certain changes such as working part time or flexibly or doing a different role. They also need to consult with the employee about whether they can return to work and if their health will improve.

Do you accrue holiday on sick leave?

Employees in the UK are still entitled to accrue their statutory holiday entitlements whilst on sick leave, no matter how long they’re off for. Any holiday entitlement not used due to illness can also be carried over to the next leave year. If an employee falls sick before or during their holiday they are allowed to use sick leave instead and gain back those holiday days.

You know your rights

Now that you know what your rights are to sick leave and sick pay in the UK it’s important to ensure you’re receiving what you’re entitled to. If you’re worried about your sick leave, or need some advice reach out to your workplaces HR team, they’ll be able to help you.


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Chloe Walker
Chloe is Head of Marketing at the PSSG, leading the team across all our brands with her highly analytical, strategic and creative skill set. Outside of work, she loves spending time outdoors, running and cycling!