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Avoiding the unwanted side effects of calling in sick


Mon 17 June, 2019

Woman with flu

Avoiding the unwanted side effects of calling in sick

There was a time when calling into work sick was straightforward and there was one simple way to do it.

With the different ways in which we now communicate the idea of picking up the telephone to inform your boss that you are unable to make it in may seem like too much work.

After all you can send a message in many different ways without the need to actually speak to anyone to inform them you are feeling under the weather.

It is easy to overlook the importance of calling in work sick, but notifying your employer in right way is important. Failing to do so can have serious repercussions, including a loss of pay.

Short term absences, lasting just a day or two, are the most common cause of sickness absence.

An employer will have a clear policy for managing sickness absence and unauthorised absence (1). It will include details of how you make contact, when you need to make contact and who you need to notify if you are absent as a result of illness.

Failing to follow any such policy and provide notification of an absence in the correct way can lead to disciplinary action being taken against you. As can a failure to inform your employer, this will be treated as an unauthorised absence (2) that can also leave you facing formal action.

If you are unable to attend work due to illness you should let your employer know as soon as possible, which will usually be the first day of illness. You need to notify your employer of your sickness in order to be paid.

Where an employer pays contractual sick pay (3) following the correct notification procedure will ensure that you get paid while you are off.

Contractual sick pay will normally be paid after a specified period of service, for example, three months. It is a matter for contractual terms and conditions. If you qualify, employers will normally pay your full pay for a set period after which it may be reduced to half pay.

Where an employer does not pay contractual sick pay you will still need to meet its notification requirements in order to receive Statutory Sick Pay, known as SSP, if eligible (4)

The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week and it is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. To qualify for SSP you need to be off work sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days).

Having to follow rules and procedures when you are unwell, and facing the threat of disciplinary action or financial loss for failing to do so may seem harsh, but managing employee absence is a key task for employers.

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey for 2018 found that employees lose an average of 35.6 days of productive time per year due to sickness, or illness-related underperformance (5) The study reported that productivity loss in the UK has been worsening over time.

Minimising the damage to efficiency and productivity that can be caused by an employee being off work indefinitely means employers will also have requirements in regards to contact if you have a long-term illness.

ACAS advise that there should be regular and agreeable contact between an employer and an absent employee on long-term sick leave (6).  An agreement should be reached as to how often and how the contact should be made, and it should be used to check on the employee’s well-being.

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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611



  1. Acas [Internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]
  2. Unauthorized absences [Internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]
  3. Contractual sick pay [Internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]
  4. Statutory sick pay [internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]
  5. Britain’s healthiest survey [Internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]
  6. Acas [Internet] [Internet] [Accessed on 10.6.19]

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