Sickness & absence from work
There may be periods where you're too ill to work and require some time off. Your employer will have a policy in place to support you while you recover, whether that's short-term or longer-term. We won't cover your employers policy in this help article, but we'll give you some details about your rights and the steps you must take when you're absent from work.
You're required to report to your manager (or absence line if you have one) to let them know you're not going to be in work. You must do this before the start of your shift where possible, and where it's not possible it should be as close to your start time as possible.
Failures to report your absence correctly could lead to your absence being recorded as unauthorised and considered as Absent Without Leave (AWOL). If you've been warned about this before, your employer may take action to stop your pay or invite you to a disciplinary procedure - but they must set out any actions they intended to take and when in writing to you.
The amount of contact you need to have with your employer will vary depending upon the circumstances. As a rule, you should agree what reasonable contact looks like based on how long you expect to be out of work due to your illness.
As an example, if you're off work with a cold, it is reasonable to report to work every day to let them know if you will remain absent until your return. However, if you're off due to a long-term condition, or a serious illness, it may be more reasonable to agree to contact on a weekly basis initially and then to a bi-weekly basis (this is usually most relevant where you have a fit note for a long period of time).
It's up to you and your manager to agree the right level of contact for the circumstances. If you're unsure, contact your local Accord officer for further support.
If your absence lasts for 7 days or less, then you don't require a formal fit note from a GP or further evidence from a medical professional. In these circumstances, you're able to self-certificate your absence. You should expect to be paid in line with your sick pay entitlements.
If your absence last for more than 7 days in a row for which you've taken sick leave (including non-working days, weekends and bank holidays) then you must obtain a fit note from your doctor (sometimes referred to as a sick note). Your note should give the reason for your absence and state the period that this relates to. You should ensure your employer receives a copy of this note and you retain the original. Fit notes are required by your employer in order for Statutory Sick Pay to be paid (which is included in any Occupational Sick Pay you may have).
Sick pay entitlements
There are two types of sick pay - Occupational Sick Pay and Statutory Sick Pay.
Statutory Sick Pay:
- is provided by the Government and is claimed on your behalf by your employer
- is payable for the first 28 weeks of absence
- you must have been an employee and worked for your employer
- you also must be earning an average of at least £120 per week
- is included in any Occupational Sick Pay you receive - it's not paid on top of this
Find out about your sick pay entitlements including what happens with holidays and annual leave, in the associated articles beneath this one.
Returning to work
When you're fit to return to work, you should inform your employer to ensure the right support is in place to welcome you. You should discuss any adjustments that might be reasonable for you, especially in longer-term absence or absences related to a disability.
If you're returning before the end of a fit note, you don't need to revisit your doctor to sign you back to work. However, if you've been absent for some time it is recommended that your talk to your GP before you return and discuss whether a phased return or other alterations to your work would be recommended before returning.
On the day of your return (or as soon as practically possible) you should have a return to work meeting to discuss your return and any support or adjustments that might be required. This is an important meeting as it's an opportunity for your manager to check-in with you that you're ok to be in work, and what support you may need.
Phased returns usually occur after longer periods of absence, but can be useful in shorter absences where there is a clear need to support your recovery to full health. There is more information on phased returns on our dedicated help article. The length of phased return will vary from case to case.
Your employer may ask to refer you to an Occupational Health provider. In the majority of situations, this is not compulsory, but it can be helpful to direct your employer on your health condition, likely recovery periods, adjustments that may need to be made, and other appropriate support. Remember, your employer isn't medically trained and won't have a full understanding of your medical condition and how it may impact you now or in the future - any assessments are conducted by fully medical trained professionals and they can fill in the blanks for your employer.
As part of a referral, you may be asked to consent to your medical records being reviewed by the Occupational Health provider when this is felt to be necessary. The Occupational Health provider will only receive limited information in relation to your specific health conditions that are being discussed, and only relevant information will be provided - it's not an opportunity for your employer to gain historical information about your overall health or treatments you've received.
You can request to view any reports produced by Occupational Health before your employer - we recommend doing this to ensure you're happy with the details being provided before it's released to your employer. You'll have the ability to request amendments to factual information, but you won't be able to change the opinions contained in the report unless they were wrong because of factual inaccuracies.