Managing Long Term Sickness at Work

Types of Sickness Situations

At some point during the working life of an employee it is likely that they will have to take at least some time off work due to sickness. Whether this is for a day or two or for a prolonged period of sickness it is necessary for employers to manage the process efficiently and within the boundaries of the law.

Sickness can manifest itself in several different ways and these should rightly be treated in their own way. For example sickness that is related to maternity or pregnancy is likely to be treated differently to an individual who has several short, re-occurring periods of sickness. There are also rules relating to sickness that has been at least in part caused by the employer, i.e. stress related and also sickness that is more long term and could potentially be viewed as a disability.

As well as the legal issues it is also necessary to consider the business planning that is necessary for dealing with periods of absence, particularly if these are likely to be longer term.

Statutory Sick Pay

Although all employers are required to inform employees of their entitlement to sick pay, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide full pay for any period of absence. All employees are, however, entitled to statutory sick pay when they are off subject to certain rules and regulations being met. This is paid through the standard payroll so it is often misinterpreted as a benefit received from the employer.

Critically, employees do not receive any form of statutory sick pay for periods of absence amounting to up to three days although many employers will enhance this by paying some or all of the pay that the employee would normally receive. Employees are then entitled to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay for periods of absence (multiple periods may be treated as one when the 28 weeks is being calculated). This figure is set by the government put paid through the employer.

Discretionary Sick Pay 

Statutory sick pay is mandatory and not something that an employer can avoid, save as to particular unusual circumstances. In many cases employers will offer enhanced sick pay. For example, although there is no statutory right to receive payments for the first three days of sickness many employers will continue to pay an employee as normal for periods of short absence. This is a contractual provision and something that the employee will be informed of.

When it comes to contractual sick pay there are several issues that need to be borne in mind.

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For more information on:

  • Dismissal Whilst on Sick Leave
  • Other Sickness Related Issues
  • Sickness and Pregnancy
  • Disability Discrimination
  • Return to Work Advice