Employers are generally understanding if an employee is unwell and cannot go to work and, where reasonable, will be supportive of you having some time off to get better. Our guidance below explains what to do if you are not feeling well and cannot go to work. We will also look at the differences between being off work because you are ill and taking unauthorised absence from work.
Taking time off sick
If you are feeling unwell, it is important to rest and get better. You can sometimes feel guilty for missing work, but only you know what is right for you and what you need to do to get better. Depending on your work environment and the reason you are unwell, it may also be crucial that you stay off work if you are poorly in order to not spread germs, for example if you work in a kitchen where you prepare food.
Reporting sickness absence
If you are unwell and you cannot go to work, you need to let your employer know as soon as possible. Your staff handbook or contract of employment will explain your company's policy on reporting sickness - when you start a new job, it is a good idea to meet with your Employment Coordinator to look through your contract so you fully understand who to inform and how to do this in the event that you are not able to go to work due to sickness.
If you are unwell, or think you may be unable to go to work for 3 days or longer, you may need to be 'signed off' by your GP. Being signed off is when you visit your GP and they provide you with a Medical Certificate stating that you are not well enough to go to work. If you are signed off work, you will need to let your employer know the date that you are likely to return to work and give them a copy of the Medical Certificate.
Depending on the amount of Social Security contributions you have made, you may be entitled to claim STIA (Short Term Incapacity Allowance) while you are signed off work ill. More information on this benefit can be found via the link below:
If you are on STIA, you need to tell your employer and your JET Employment Coordinator as soon as possible. You should show your medical certificate to your Employment Coordinator and you must provide Social Security with the original copy of this as soon as possible.
You cannot work while on STIA and you cannot attend our job clubs, but we can meet with you to check how you are or to help with any questions you have about your STIA claim. While you are signed off you should spend time focusing on your recovery so you can return to work as soon as possible.
Returning to work
When you return to work after being off due to illness, most employers will have a Return to Work meeting with you. This is a short meeting to confirm the number of days you had off, get a copy of your Medical Certificate and to check you are okay to return to work, or if you need any temporary adjustments making. Remember, employers have a responsibility to look after their employees so make sure you tell them if there is anything they can do to help you feel better at work while you are recovering from an illness or accident. Depending on the situation and with agreement from the employer, you can ask your Employment Coordinator to attend a Return to Work meeting with you.
There is a difference between someone being unable to work because they are ill and being absent from work because they can't be bothered to go that day. Unauthorised absence covers things such as:
- not turning up to work
- not notifying your employer that you are unable to attend work
- giving no reason for your absence
Employers will not tolerate unauthorised absences and if you take unauthorised days off then you may risk disciplinary action and could even lose your job.
If you are in receipt of Income Support or would normally be eligible for it but lose your job due to unauthorised absence, it is possible that you could be sanctioned and not receive Income Support for a period of 13 weeks.
If you have any questions about sickness or being absent from work, you can speak to your employer or your Employment Coordinator for support and advice.