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How to make a Sickness policy

A sickness policy is a document that outlines the policies and procedures an employer has in place to manage sickness-related absences and the procedure for returning to work after taking sick leave.

This sick leave policy includes who employees should report sick-related absences to by what time. Employers should use a sick policy to clarify how sick-related absence will be dealt with, to summarise sickness statutory rights and when employees will receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Use this sickness policy to inform employees how they will be paid during sick leave, and help them recognise their personal responsibility to achieve acceptable levels of attendance.

This document is GDPR compliant.

Use this sickness policy:

  • to deal effectively and fairly with absences caused by sickness
  • to help managers understand how to deal with sickness absences correctly and lawfully
  • only for employees based in England, Wales or Scotland

This sickness procedure covers:

  • what the policy is intended to achieve
  • how to report sickness absence
  • Fit for Work assessments and Return to Work Plans
  • the sick pay an employee can expect to receive whilst absent
  • returning to work after sickness
  • the sickness absence meeting procedure

Although there is no legal requirement for an employer to have a sickness policy, it is highly recommended that employers should have a procedure to manage sickness absences that employees and staff can refer to. This helps to clarify from the outset the expectations, roles and process so that everyone is clear about their obligations and what action they should be taking.

It is usual for an employer's Human Resources department to handle sickness absences from work or an employee's line manager. However, it is also possible to use an external organisation to provide initial sickness absence management.

Employers must provide a first-aid procedure at work. Low-risk organisations such as small offices should, at the very least, have a first-aid box and a person appointed to take charge of first-aid arrangements. Employers must provide information about first-aid arrangements to their employees. Workplaces with more significant health and safety risks may need a trained first-aider and to run a health and safety assessment.

SSP is the minimum amount paid that employers must pay employees set by the Government. Employees get SSP for the days they would have normally worked. Employees must also satisfy statutory requirements to be eligible for SSP. For more information, read Sick pay.

To qualify for SSP you must:

  • be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer
  • have been ill for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days)
  • earn at least £123 (before tax) per week (information correct as of April 2022)
  • tell your employer you're sick before their deadline - or within 7 days if they don't have one.

SSP is only available up to a maximum of 28 weeks and cannot be used in conjunction with Statutory Maternity Pay.

For more information, read Sick pay.

An employer will need to provide the employee with an SSP1 form which the employee can use to apply for Employment and Support Allowance.

SSP commences on the fourth consecutive day an employee is absent from work. SSP is paid in the same way as normal wages (ie weekly, monthly etc) and tax and NI contributions will be deducted in the same way.

Enhanced sick pay, also known as contractual sick pay or occupational sick pay, is the company's own sick pay scheme which goes above and beyond what is necessary under statute. For more information, read Sick pay.

Enhanced sick pay can be set at any limit on top of SSP, or you can provide full salary and benefits for a set period of time. The contractual sick pay cannot be less than the statutory minimum. For more information, read Sick pay.

This is at the employer's total discretion. You can set a minimum period of service with the company before allowing employees to benefit from enhanced sick pay.

Although there is no need to offer enhanced sick pay, many employers consider company sick pay a valuable part of their benefits package. It can help attract and retain good employees and boosts staff morale and loyalty.

A return-to-work interview is an interview designed to welcome an employee back after a certain period of sickness and to check that the employee is well enough to continue working. It is used to find out the reason for the sickness absence and to see whether any changes need to be made.

Employees who have been absent for more than 7 consecutive days must give their employer a 'fit note'. This note is prescribed by a healthcare proffessional and indicates whether an employee is 'not fit for work' or 'may be fit for work'. A fit note allows employers and employees to discuss any arrangements and changes that need to be made to accommodate the employee returning to work. For more information, read Fit notes.

If an employee is persistently absent and the return-to-work interviews are not helping, then it may be necessary to agree on trigger points with your employees, setting out when repeated absences will lead to formal action.

Although you may want to dismiss an employee for repeated or extended sickness absences, you have to be aware of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination (under the Equality Act 2010), especially when an employee may be absent due to a disability-related issue. For more information, read Managing sickness absence.

Handling long-term sickness absences requires a careful and sympathetic approach, especially if the illness is serious or related to mental health. You may need to add more provisions in your sickness policy to deal with long-term absences or Ask a lawyer.

Ask a lawyer for further advice for:

  • employees based outside England, Wales or Scotland
  • advice if an employees absence relates to a disability

Other names for Sickness policy

Sick policy, Sick leave policy, Sickness procedure.