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How to get sick pay

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Your employer must tell you what to do when you’re off work sick, including:

  • when to tell them you’re sick
  • what information to give them about your illness

If they haven’t told you, make sure you ask them what to do or check your staff handbook or intranet.

If you don't follow your employer's rules, you’ll be breaking a term of your contract. You can still get any statutory sick pay you’re entitled to, but you might not get any extra sick pay your contract says you can get. You could eventually lose your job.

If your employer hasn't told you how to get sick pay

If your employer hasn’t told you what to do to get statutory sick pay (SSP), you should:

  1. Tell your employer straight away that you’re sick and can’t work.
  2. Let your employer know what the first day of your illness was, even if it was a non-working day.
  3. Confirm your illness in writing (this is called ‘self-certification’). You'll need to do this within 7 days of telling your employer you’re sick. You can use the Employee’s statement of sickness (SC2) form on GOV.UK to do this.
  4. Get a doctor’s note if you’re sick for longer than 7 days, and your employer asks you to get one. The 7 days includes days you wouldn't normally be working.

What your employer can't ask you to do

If you're entitled to SSP, and your contract doesn't have any extra rules about contractual sick pay, your employer isn’t allowed to:

  • demand that you tell them you’re sick by a certain time of day
  • make you contact them more than once a week
  • make you get a doctor’s note before you've been sick for 8 days
  • insist you use a specific form to tell them about your illness (self-certification)
  • refuse to let someone else tell them you’re sick, for example if you’re too ill to get in touch yourself

If your employer refuses to pay your SSP because of any of these reasons, you can take steps to get paid. You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.

Getting a note from your doctor

If you’re sick for more than 7 days you’ll probably have to get a note from your doctor. You might hear these referred to as ‘fit notes’ (they used to be called ‘sick notes’). 

On the note, your doctor will say that you:

  • are not fit for work
  • may be fit for work

If your doctor says you ‘may be fit for work’ they can recommend the type of work you might be able to do.

If your employer can’t make the changes your doctor recommends, you’ll still be considered unfit for work and can carry on getting sick pay.

If you’re off work sick because you're disabled, your employer has a legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you return to work.

If you’re not sure if your condition is classed as a disability, it's worth checking. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

If you’re late telling your employer you’re off sick

If you didn’t tell your employer straightaway that you were off sick, it’s up to them to decide if you had a good reason.

If they don’t think you had a good reason, they can refuse to pay you sick pay for the number of days you were late telling them.

If you’re not happy with their decision you can contact HMRC and ask them to reconsider.

HMRC employees’ enquiry line

Telephone: 0300 200 3500
Textphone: 0300 200 3212

Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

Calls can cost up to 12p a minute from landlines, and between 3p and 45p a minute from mobiles. 

How you’re paid sick pay

You’re usually paid statutory and contractual sick pay in the same way as your normal wages - for example, weekly into your bank account. You’ll pay tax and National Insurance on your sick pay. 

Returning to work

If you want to return to work early, your employer might ask you to get a note from your doctor confirming you’re fit for work. This will usually be because your employer needs it for their insurance.

Your doctor can recommend that you work less hours or days for a bit, and gradually increase them back to normal - this is called a ‘phased return’. This could affect your pay so you need to discuss it with your employer.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you want help working out what your options are.
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