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Whether you are suffering from mental health problems, a chronic illness or even a stomach bug, there are times in life when you are simply too sick to work.
The additional stress of worrying about your regular income while you are unwell may make you feel even worse, but there is lots of financial support available to you.
In this instalment of the CashLady Emergency Bible, we look at what to do when you are too sick to work, including notifying your employer about your illness and applying for relevant sick pay, sickness benefits or disability benefits.
When you are too sick to work
Recent research from Canada Life Group Insurance revealed that almost a quarter (23%) of UK workers, that’s around seven million people, say they would only take time off work if they were hospitalised and had no other choice.
Indicating a worrying attitude towards taking time off for sickness, the research shows that nine in ten UK workers say they’ve gone into work despite feeling ill, highlighting how crucial is it that workers know their rights when it comes to illness and sick pay.
Mental health problems in the workplace
With anxiety reaching worryingly high levels across the UK and the knowledge that one in four people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives, it’s important that you know what to do when you need some time out, either mentally or physically.
The Telegraph recently revealed that “one in three “sick notes” handed out by GPs are now for mental health problems,” also highlighting new data that shows more than 5 million people are being signed off work every year for such issues.
Calling in sick to work
There is a big difference between taking a couple of days off while you recover from a stomach bug and being signed off from work longer term by a doctor.
If you are suffering from a bad cold or a stomach virus, then it’s advisable to stay home and rest and prevent germs from spreading throughout the office.
Depending on your company policy you usually must notify your manager or HR department by a certain time in the day to let them know you will not be coming in so that it officially counts as a sick day.
Your company can ask what is wrong and how long you expect to be off sick. You should also take this opportunity to notify them about any work that requires picked up while you are not there.
Employers usually ask employees to fill in a ‘self-certification’ form when they return to work to confirm they’ve been off sick for up to seven days.
When you are off sick for more than seven days
You must give your employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if you’re off sick for more than seven days in a row.
The fit note will say whether you are ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’.
Claiming sick pay from your employer
You can get SSP for up to 28 weeks if:
- You’re employed – but unable to work.
- Your average earnings in the two months before you stopped working were at least £113 a week.
The current rate for SSP is £89.35 a week and it’s paid by your employer in the same way as your wages.
Alternatively, some employers have more generous sick pay schemes and others will assess the situation on a case by case basis.
Check the terms of your contract or the staff handbook to find out what’s available.
Benefits and entitlements when you’re too sick to work
If you are too sick to work and in a receipt of no income, or a reduced income through SSP or your company sick pay scheme, then you may find it difficult to cover your regular costs, particularly rent and household bills.
There is lots of Government support available to you and so it’s worth spending some time researching online or visiting Citizens Advice.
The Money Saving Advice Service is a useful resource for finding out what you are potentially entitled to including:
- Tax credits for topping up your income
- Housing Benefit or Universal credit for essential costs
- Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit to replace your earnings
- Personal Independence Payment to assist with the extra costs of being disabled or having a chronic illness
Your insurance policies
You may have an existing insurance policy that covers mortgage payments when you’re too sick to work, or allows you to claim for loss of earnings.
Check your current policies – the type of cover to look for is critical illness insurance, income protection insurance, and mortgage protection insurance and be sure to submit your claim as soon as possible.