Skip navigation
Sue Hayward

How much could a New Year’s illness cost you?


If you’re ill and need to take time off work, do you know where you stand financially?

Woman with flu

It’s that time of year when most of us feel low post Christmas, and there’s plenty of bugs around to make us physically ill too.

But the fear of losing our jobs or worrying how we’ll cope financially means we struggle in and work despite being ill.

Even if you can claim the minimum statutory sick pay (SSP) for longer illnesses, which is less than £90 a week, this still leaves many employees facing an average income loss of £430 a week.

Should you get sick pay?

2 pound coins

There’s no law that says employers should cough up full pay if you’re off sick, whether that’s one day or for a long-term illness.

"Companies usually give either contractual or discretionary sick pay," says employment lawyer Sue Morrison.

"With contractual schemes, you can get three months full pay followed by three months on half pay, but it can be a grey area with discretionary sick pay."

This can, in reality, mean you don’t get anything other than SSP.

Details of any sick pay should be in your contract or you could ask your boss or HR department.

Statutory sick pay


This is the bare minimum and means you can claim £88.45 a week from your employer for up to 28 weeks if you’re too ill to work.

To qualify you must be classed as an employee, have been ill for at least four days in a row, and earn at least £112 before tax each week.

To make a claim tell your employer in writing. You’ll only need a doctor’s sick note if you’re away for seven days or more.

If you’re not able to claim SSP or are beyond the 28-week limit you may be able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA).

Can your boss insist you get a second opinion?

"Any occupational sick pay scheme will usually be subject to compliance," says Morrison.

This means a company will often have the right to send you to a doctor of their choice at their expense, if you’re off work long term.

And although they can’t force you to go for a medical, any sick pay entitlement may depend on you complying with this.

Duvet days

Woman with flu

Sick days cost British businesses billions a year according to auditing firm PwC, but one in three workers admit to having pulled a sickie.

One way round this is to build some "duvet days" into employees' annual leave entitlements.

An idea from America, this concept means if you fancy a last-minute sickie, there is no need to fake an illness or worry about leaving colleagues in the lurch: just call your boss and say you’re taking a duvet day.

And building flexible working into the system could be the way forward in the UK according to Jon Andrews, head of human resources consulting at PwC.

"A flexible working approach by employers would most likely put people off pulling a sickie."


Compare income protection insurance

Get covered for illness, injury or unemployment.

Get a quote

Related articles

Life insurance

Compare life insurance quotes from up to 11 providers

Get a quote