Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyhelper.org.uk

Whether you’re suffering with a Covid diagnosis or navigating a more long-term illness, your focus should be on getting better in the way that’s best for you. However, if you do need time off work to recover, it can be incredibly difficult not to worry about money. Plus, until you’re in the situation, most people are unaware of what their rights are to sick pay when they are off work for an extended period of time.

To help make things clearer, here are answers to eight of the most common questions that employees have in relation to their sick pay rights.

What can I claim from work if I fall ill and I’m an employee or agency worker?

Agency workers are entitled to the same Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as all other employees. To make a claim, you must have done some work for your employer, be earning an average of at least £120 a week and have been ill for at least four days (including non-working days). Proof of sickness after seven days will also be required with a sick note from your doctor or an allied health professional.

Your employer is legally bound to pay you £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks.

Be sure to give your employer notice that you’re unable to work before the deadline they’ve set within the company policy, or within seven days if they’ve not set one. Otherwise, you may lose some of your SSP.

What am I entitled to if I fall ill and I’m on a zero-hour contract?

If you’re on a zero-hour contract, unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be covered by an occupational sick pay scheme. However, you’ll still be entitled to claim SSP.

What am I entitled to if I have a health condition or disability that limits how much I can work?

If you’re unable to work and need help with living costs or support getting back into work you can apply for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You are entitled to make a claim irrespective of your working status, but you need to be under State Pension age. A condition to this is that you must have previously worked as an employee or have been self-employed. In the past two to three years, you must have also paid enough National Insurance contributions or National Insurance credits.

You can apply for the new style ESA up to three months before your SSP ends. However, this will be paid once your SSP ends as you are not entitled to make a claim for both payments. If you are working whilst claiming ESA, you must be working less than sixteen hours a week as well as earning under £143 per week.

What are my rights if I am off sick due to COVID?

In the case of being off work due to COVID, you are entitled to SSP starting from your first day off work and this continues for the full duration that you’re off work. If you, or someone you live with, has tested positive for COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms, you are entitled to claim SSP.

This is also the case if you’ve been notified by the NHS that you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Self-isolating before going for surgery, at the recommendation of a doctor or healthcare professional, is also a valid reason for making a claim. You will need to provide evidence of isolation and you can do this by getting an isolation note from NHS 111 if you’re off work for seven or more days.

If you don’t meet the requirements for SSP, you can apply for the new style ESA if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • you or your child might have COVID-19 or you’re recovering from it
  • you or your child have come into contact with someone who had COVID-19
  • you’ve been advised by a healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into surgery
  • you’re following quarantine rules after a trip abroad.

What if I have a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability?

You are entitled to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP). To apply, requirements demand that you must have difficulty doing everyday tasks or getting around because of your condition. You can claim PIP regardless of if you are working, have savings or are claiming most other benefits.

What help is available if I fall sick and I’m self-employed?

If you’re self-employed and become ill, you can apply for the ESA. For the first thirteen weeks, you’ll be paid the assessment rate which is up to £59.20 if you’re under 25 or up to £74.70 if you’re aged 25 or over.

Once you’ve been assessed you’ll be placed into one of two groups. If you’re able to get back into work in the future, you’ll be placed in a work-related activity group where you’ll be paid up to £74.70 a week. If you’re placed in the support group, you will be entitled to up to £114.10 per week.

Payment will be made to you every two weeks. If you’re placed in the support group, you may also be entitled to the enhanced disability or severe disability premium which is worth investigating if this applies to you.

What are my rights if I’ve been sick for more than 4 weeks?

If you’re an employee that’s been sick for over 4 weeks, you may be considered as “long-term sick”. You are still entitled to take annual leave. Employers are within their rights to dismiss an employee who is long-term sick as long as they have considered ways the employee can return to work, for instance through working part-time, flexibly or doing less stressful work. They must have also consulted the employee and asked about when they could return to work or if their health will improve. If you feel you’ve been unfairly dismissed, you can take your employer to an employment tribunal.

What am I entitled to if I fall ill and I’m an agricultural worker?

Agricultural workers employed before the 1st of October 2013, are entitled to claim Agricultural Sick Pay (ASP) when they’re off sick. This gives employees at least the Agricultural minimum wage and includes any SSP. Be sure to check if your contract stipulates your entitlement to this.

You have to have worked over a year with your employer to be entitled to make a claim and the longer you’ve been working for your employer, the more weeks you can claim ASP for (up to a maximum of 26 weeks if you’ve been employed for over 59 months).

Employers must pay you your basic pay for all your normal working hours for each day that you’re off. This also includes payment for any guaranteed overtime. Unlike SSP, ASP can be claimed from the first full-working day that you have off and stops on the day prior to your return to work. One thing to note is that if you are off work for longer than 2 weeks, you won’t be paid for your first three days of sickness. Also, be sure to provide your employer with a doctor’s note if you’re ill for more than eight days to ensure you get what you’re entitled to.

Representative 49.9% APR

Representative Example

Amount borrowed: £1200 for 18 months
Number of repayments: 18
Interest rate p/a: 49.9% (variable)
Each repayment amount: £90.46
Total amount repayable: £1628.28

Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems.
For help, go to moneyhelper.org.uk

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