If you are an employee and have to take time off from work because you are ill - for reasons relating to your physical or mental health - then you may be entitled to sick pay.

For a period of absence that is less than 7 days in a row you do not need to provide your employer with any proof of sickness, but for a continuous period of sick leave that lasts longer than 7 days you are required to provide a fit note from your GP, hospital doctor or a similar health professional.

Obviously if you are off sick you won't be working for your employer during that time, so what does that mean for your pay?

You should consult your contract as the amount of sick pay you will receive depends on what is stipulated in the terms. If your employer offers occupational sick pay, then the amount of sick pay you receive will be based on your salary (usually provided you have worked for the company for a minimum period of service). If your employee doesn't offer an occupational scheme, you may be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is £96.35 a week and can be paid by an employer for up to 28 weeks.

You are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay if you:

  • are an employee and have already carried out work for your employer
  • earn a minimum of £120 a week (before tax)
  • have been ill or self-isolating for at least 4 days in a row
  • have informed your employer that you are ill, unwell or self-isolating within the deadline set out by your employer, or within 7 days if there are no terms set out in your contract

If you meet the above criteria, then it is a legal requirement for your employer to pay you SSP.

It is important to highlight that SSP is only payable on the fourth day of an employee's illness, which is known as the 'qualifying day'. The first three days of illness are referred to as 'waiting days' and you won't receive SSP during this time. For example, if you are off ill from Monday to Wednesday and return to work on Thursday, you won't receive Statutory Sick Pay.

SSP also only covers the days you are contracted to work. It doesn't include weekends, or non-working days if you only work part-time.

For employees who do work part-time, SSP is still paid at the full amount for the week, provided the period of continuous absence is longer 4 or more days.

As an example, let's say you work part-time Wednesday to Friday and you are off ill for two continuous weeks.

You will have been off sick for 6 days, but SSP isn't payable for the first 3 qualifying days. Therefore, the number of days you are eligible to receive SSP for is 3 days. This means you will receive £96.35.

You will not qualify to receive Statutory Sick Pay if you:

  • have already received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks)
  • earn less that £120 a week
  • are self-employed
  • currently receive Statutory Maternity Pay

This criteria excludes a number of temporary workers, freelancers and contractors. If you fall under this category, there are two government schemes you may be able to claim: Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

You don't need to register or file a claim for SSP. As long as you are eligible to receive sick pay, the responsibility to pay it falls upon your employer. It should be paid in the same way and at the same time as your normal wages, which may be weekly or monthly.

If you are claiming Statutory Sick Pay you are still able to accrue holiday during your absence.

You also have the option of requesting to take holiday during the period your are off sick (provided you have annual leave that you can take). However, you can't claim holiday pay and sick pay at the same time.

Given that your holiday pay will likely be higher than SSP, this is something may financially benefit you.

If you have been off for a long period of sickness and haven't had the opportunity to use your annual leave, it is worth noting that you are entitled to carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday (some employer's may allow you to carry over more than this).

If you disagree with the amount of Statutory Sick Pay your employer has paid you or if you think you are entitled to SSP and haven't received it, there are couple of steps you can take. Firstly, ask them to formally write down the reasons for their decision. If you think they are in the wrong, try your best to resolve the situation with them before taking further action.

If you are unable to resolve it, take the information your employer has provided and contact HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team. They are able to review the details and establish which party is in the right. If they confirm that you are due sick pay, then you are employer has to pay you.

If your employer refuses to pay, this is classed as an unlawful deduction of wages. If you are in a union, speak to them and see if they will mediate, otherwise the final option is to take your employer to a tribunal.