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Employment Law: Absence and Attendance at Work Q&A (Part 1)

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Q: What happens if an employee calls in sick?

If an employee is unable to work due to sickness, they should contact their employer as soon as possible. An employer will ask the employee about the reasons for their absence and ascertain how long they will be absent from work. Normally an employee will be required to self-certify their absence for the first days, following which a Fit Note will be required from their GP.

When an employee is absent due to sickness, they are not automatically entitled to their normal salary. However they may be entitled to SSP from the fourth day of absence onwards. Furthermore an employee may be entitled to Company Sick Pay, which may be a contractual right or non-discretionary. The position is less clear for other benefits such as a Company mobile phone, car or computer.

Procedures setting out the process to follow and entitlements whilst absent from work are usually contained in a Contract of Employment or Staff Handbook.

Q: What happens if an employee is affected by mental health issues?

Employees are increasingly affected by mental health, which are caused either by the workplace, at home or a combination of a number of issues. In any event, it is an issue which employers cannot avoid.

An employer should continue to apply its normal sickness absence procedures, although a greater degree of sensitivity may be required due to an employee’s mental condition. In the circumstances, an employer should ensure its members of staff are confident in how to handle an employee who is suffering with a mental health condition.

Q: What is the position if an employee goes home from work due to sickness?

An employee’s sick pay entitlement when they leave the workplace during the day due to sickness differs for the purposes of SSP and Company Sick Pay.

In the case of SSP, if an employee has started work, that day cannot be counted as a qualifying day for SSP purposes. However, if an employee attends the workplace, but leaves due to sickness before they commence work, this can be counted as a qualifying day for SSP purposes.

However an employee’s entitlement to Company Sick Pay is dependent on the Contract of Employment or Sickness Absence Policy. These documents should specify the rules for an employee’s entitlement to Company Sick Pay, whether it is contractual or non-contractual, as well as the position when an employee leaves work early due to sickness.

Q: Can an employee work for another employer while on sickness leave?

Working elsewhere while on sick leave could amount to misconduct or even gross misconduct.

The starting point is to check the Contract of Employment, as there may be restrictions on what an employee can and cannot do during the course of their employment. For example, an employee may be prevented from working for another business unless the employee receives consent from their employer. A breach of any contractual term could amount to a disciplinary offence.

If an employee does work for another company while on sick leave, this could raise concerns as to whether the employee’s sickness is genuine. In the circumstances, an employer should undertake an investigation to assess whether the employee is able to perform the roles and responsibilities associated with their job. If there are sufficient reasons to upload the allegations, the employee could be subject to disciplinary proceedings, which could result in anything from a verbal warning to termination.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch with Sally Morris at or on 01905 610410.