What happens when you’re too ill to work?

At this time of year there are lots of winter bugs and viruses around which can result in PAs being ill and off sick.

It’s really important when you first start working for your employer that you agree between you whether or not it is in your employer’s best interest for you to come in to work to support them if you have a cold or a tummy bug.

Even if you feel well enough to work the disabled or older person you support may have a weakened immune system and so it could be dangerous for you to be in close contact with them if you know you have an illness which may affect them.

None of us can know when we are going to be ill (unless it’s a planned operation or treatment) so you and your employer need to have clear procedures in place for what to do if you can’t come into work.

Usually there will be at least one other PA in the team and, except in exceptional circumstances, they would be expected to cover your shift in an emergency. If this is not possible, your employer needs to have a backup plan such as a family member, friend or care agency they have registered with in advance to be able to contact in case of emergencies. If all else fails contact social services immediately.


Getting paid when you are off sick

The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is £88.45 and is paid to you if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. (Your employer can no longer claim this money back from HMRC, they must notify direct payments to let them know if they need to pay SSP)


Qualifying For Statutory Sick Pay

In order to qualify for SSP:

  • You need to be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer.
  • You need to have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days).
  • You need to be earning at least £112 (before tax) per week
  • Tell your employer your sick before their deadline or within 7 days if they don’t have one specified in the contract
  • You get SSP for the days you would normally have worked. It’s not paid for the 1st 3 days your off, unless you’ve been paid SSP within the last 8 weeks and are eligible for it again.
  • If you have more than one job you may get SSP from each employer. The amount will be split between each employer depending upon how many days you work for each.
  • SSP is paid in the same way as your normal wages.
  • If you’re off sick for more than 4 weeks this is considered long-term sick. A long-term sick employee is still entitled to annual leave.
    Your employer cannot force you to take annual leave when you are eligible for sick leave although you can choose to take paid holiday while you are on sick leave, if your employer agrees.

You won’t qualify if you have received the maximum amount of SSP, 28 weeks, or if you are getting statutory maternity pay. If you have regular periods of sickness, they may be counted as “linked”. This is when they last 4 or more days each or be less than 8 weeks apart.

You are no longer eligible for SSP if you have a continuous series of linked periods lasting more than 3 years.

If you are still off sick after 28 weeks you may be able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance. An Active independence benefits advocate, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or Job Centre Plus will be able to advise you on this.


How to claim

  • To claim statutory sick pay you need to tell your employer in writing (if they request it) within 7 days.
  • If you are off sick for more than 7 days in a row (including nonworking days) you must give your employer a doctor’s “Fit note”. If you ask for a fit note before the 7th day they may charge a fee for this.
  • The fit note will say whether you are either “fit for work” or “not fit for work”. If the note says you are fit for work you may need to discuss with your employer any changes or adjustments that might need to be made to enable you to return to work. You must keep the original of this note although your employer can take a copy.


If you are sick / ill for less than 7 days

Sometimes employers may ask their PAs to complete a self certification form to confirm that they have been off sick for up to 7 days. If your employer does not have their own version of this form there is a simple one you can complete online and print off.

Click here to download a self certification form.