Employees can take time off if they are unwell, it is advisable to have a sickness management policy. If the period of illness is less than 7 days, they do not need to provide proof of illness, but you may ask them to complete a “self-certification” form to confirm the details of their illness.

If the employee is, or is likely to be, unwell for more than 7 days (including non-working days such as weekends and bank holidays), they will need to provide proof of the illness in the form of a doctor’s note; a ‘Statement of fitness for work’ otherwise known as a ‘fit note’ or a ‘sick note’.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The rate for SSP is set annually and is available from the government website: and is paid when an employee is sick for at least 4 days in a row for up to 28 weeks aggregate. The qualifying period does not apply if the employee has been sick in the last eight weeks and the previous period of sickness included the 3-day waiting period.

SSP must be paid in the same way as normal pay and is subject to usual deductions.

You may choose to pay occupational sick pay – if you choose to offer an enhanced sick pay, you must stipulate how much and for how long in your contracts.

For the most up to date information on eligibility, please visit the government website.

SSP1 Form

If your employee is not eligible for SSP or their SSP is going to come to an end you must issue an SSP1 form (available from the above link). This will enable your employee to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

  • If they are not eligible for SSP you must send the form after they have been off sick for 7 days or more.
  • If they are eligible but their SSP is going to come to an end, you must send it to them on or before the 23rd week of sickness if they are not expected to return to work before the 28th week of sickness.

Phased Return to Work

For absences of over 4 – 6 weeks, it may be advisable to arrange a phased return to work for the employee, this will ease them back into their normal pattern of work at a manageable pace and ensure that their recovery is sustained, and further absence hopefully avoided.

A phased return could be working fewer days or reduced hours on usual working days, this working pattern is then gradually increased over the following weeks until the employee is back up to their usual full contracted hours.

While on a phased return, any sickness should continue to be paid at SSP and any working hours paid at the contractual rate. Days paid at SSP will contribute to the aggregate 28 weeks entitlement.

Occupational Heath Referral

You may wish to get medical advice on your employee’s condition, if there is a new diagnosis or a long-term absence. This can be done either through the individual’s GP or through an Occupational Health Report, it must be done with the employee’s consent. Further details can be found below.

Capability Procedure

If an employee is unable to carry out their duties due to ill-health this could trigger a capability procedure.

Issues with performance usually split into two areas – capability and conduct.

  • Capability – when the performance issues are beyond the control of the employee, either due to ill health or inadequate training, this can also be the case when an employee has a disability and reasonable adjustments have not been able to help.
  • Conduct – when performance issues are around behaviours at work and the result is within the control of the individual.

The first step in a capability process is establishing the facts of the matter. This could include a GP’s fit note or a referral to Occupational Health. An occupational health referral is usually carried out by an external occupational health practitioner – usually a medical or HR professional, or a mixture of the two – they will carry out a confidential appointment with the individual to discuss their medical history.

The employer can request certain specific questions or areas for consideration such as:

  • Whether an individual is fit for work
  • Whether they are likely to be able to return to work
  • Whether they will require any adjustments to be able to return to work
  • Whether their illness would be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010
  • Whether the ill health could have been caused by the workplace

This list is not exhaustive.

Should the occupational health practitioner recommend reasonable adjustments, efforts must be made to implement suggestions.

If an employee is unable to fulfil their duties due to ill health, it may be necessary to end their employment. As this would be a dismissal – a full and fair process must be followed.