How to get sick pay

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

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

  • when you should tell them you’re sick

  • what information you need to give them

If your employer hasn’t told you, ask them what to do or check your staff handbook or intranet. 

You should also check if your employer has rules about any extra sick pay they offer, sometimes called - ‘contractual sick pay’ (CSP). This is sick pay your employer might pay as well as SSP.

If you don't follow your employer's rules

You’ll be breaking a term of your contract with your employer. 

You should still get any statutory sick pay (SSP), but you might:

  • not get any extra sick pay your contract says you can get

  • lose your job

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

You should:

  • tell your employer straight away that you’re sick and can’t work

  • let your employer know when your illness started, including non-working days

You need to 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 form on GOV.UK

You should get a doctor’s note if you’re sick for longer than 7 days. The 7 days include days you wouldn't normally be working.

What your employer can't tell you to do

If you’re sure you can get SSP,  and your contract doesn't have any rules about contractual sick pay (CSP), your employer can’t: 

  • 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  until you’ve been sick for more than 7 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

Getting a fit note

If you’re sick for more than 7 days you should get a fit note.

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

  • a GP or a doctor at a hospital

  • a registered nurse

  • a pharmacist

  • an occupational therapist

  • a physiotherapist

Your fit note will be either printed or digital. If you’re not sure which kind you’ll get and how you’ll get it, check with the healthcare professional.

If you get a printed fit note, check that the healthcare professional has signed it.

If you get a digital fit note, check that it includes the healthcare professional’s name.

If the healthcare professional hasn't either signed your fit note or included their name, it could be rejected by your employer and you might have to get a new one.

You should always keep your fit note - you might have to pay for a replacement if you lose or delete it. You can give your employer a copy.

The fit note should say either:

  • you're not fit for work

  • you might be fit for work

If your fit note says you ‘might be fit for work’

The healthcare professional can recommend the type of work you might be able to do. For example, they might recommend you don’t do any heavy lifting while your back injury is getting better.

If your employer can’t make the changes the healthcare professional recommends, you should stay off work and you can keep getting SSP until you’re well enough to work.

If you're off sick because you're disabled, your employer has a legal duty under the Equality Act to make changes to help you return to work - these are called ‘reasonable adjustments’.

If you’re disabled check how to ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments.

You might have to show your condition is a disability - you can check if your condition is a disability under the Equality Act.

If you want to return to work 

If you feel well enough to go back to work before your fit note ends, speak to your employer. They might want you to talk to occupational health first. 

You can usually find your employer’s rules on returning to work after sickness in your staff handbook or intranet.

You can usually go back to work after the end date on your fit note. Check your fit note first - it might say your doctor wants you to have a medical check before you go back. 

How you’re paid sick pay

You’re usually paid SSP and CSP in the same way as your normal wages. 

You’ll pay tax and National Insurance on your SSP and CSP. 

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Page last reviewed on 09 December 2022