Help and Advice

Information and advice on contracts and pay, national insurance and tax, and your employment rights.

You are entitled to a certain amount of time off work for holidays and breaks. This is explained at on our Student Advice Centre website on the section of employment rights.

You may also need time off due to having a child, bereavement or other family issues.

Time off because you are sick

If you are too ill to work you should tell your employer straight away. Your contract or staff handbook may well have instructions about how you should do this. It is important to let them know what the problem is and how long you expect to be off, and to keep them up to date if this changes.

You can self-certify for up to 7 days of sickness. This means that you do not need a certificate from the doctor, but are able to tell your employer yourself. Your employer may ask you to do this by writing a letter, or by filling in a form when you return. If you are off for more than 7 days you should get a note from your doctor. These 7 days include any days that you would not normally work.

Since April 2010 ‘sick notes’ have been replaced by ‘fit notes’. This means that your doctor will consider what you are able to do when you ask them for certification. This note may say that you are too ill to work, but it may also say that you cannot do your normal work, and suggest ways that your could change your employment temporarily to enable you to work.

If you are likely to be off sick for a long period you should discuss with your employer how this will affect you. Your employer should have a policy to cover this. They may be able to make changes that will allow you to work, but if you are off for a very long time they may not have to keep your job for you.

Continual or Unauthorised absences

If you are off work a lot, either due to repeated illness or without explanation your employer does have the right to take action about this. If you are ill a lot, a good employment policy will have a procedure to discuss this with your doctor after getting your consent.

Eventually your employer can take further action which may include using their disciplinary procedure. There is more information about this on the ACAS website

Getting paid when you are sick

The law says that your employer must pay you a certain amount when you are off sick. You are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if:

  • you're sick for at least four days in a row (including weekends and bank holidays and days that you do not normally work)
  • you have average weekly earnings of at least £109 a week

The rate of sick pay is £86.70 per week, this is divided by the number of days you normally work in a week to get a daily rate, which is then applied each day you are sick. So if you work 5 days a week the daily rate is £86.70/5 = £17.34. The first 3 days of illness are not counted so if you are sick for 2 weeks (10 working days) you would get a total of £121.38.

Your employer may give you more than the statutory sick pay in your contract. They do not have to, but if they do they must give the same terms to everyone. You may have a period for which you are paid full pay, and a period for which you are paid half pay, unless the statutory sick pay is more than half pay.

Statutory Sick pay is payable for up to 28 weeks. If your statutory sick pay ends you may be entitled to some benefits, please take a look at the UK Government website for more information

Time off because you are having a child

If you are pregnant you are entitled to up to 52 weeks off work, provided you qualify as an employee. This is called maternity leave. You must tell your employer that you are pregnant, the due date, and when you intend to take leave. This must be done by the end of the 15th week before the baby is due.  Your right to this is not affected by how long you have worked, how many hours you work, or your rate of pay.

Details about this leave and whether you qualify as an employee can be found on the UK Government website regarding maternity pay and leave

You are entitled to be paid a proportion of your earnings for some of this time provided you meet certain conditions related to earnings. If you do not meet these conditions you may be entitled to some benefits. We have information about this, and other help for students with families on the Student Advice Centre website on the money advice section.

Your employer may have their own schemes for time off and pay, but they must meet certain minimums. Your employer must keep your job for you while you are pregnant, unless it is affected by redundancy. If they do not keep your job this could be unfair dismissal:

Please take a look at the Student Advice Centre website for more guidance about problems at work and how this can be rectified.  

While you are pregnant you are also entitled to reasonable time off for ante-natal appointments and classes.

Time off because your partner is having a child

If you are the biological or adoptive father of a child, or the partner (including same sex) of someone who is having or adopting a child you will normally be entitled to up to 2 weeks off work, if you have worked for the same employer continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the week which falls 15 weeks before the child is due. You must tell your employer within 15 weeks of the date the child is due.

You will receive some payment for this time off, for more guidance please consult the UK Government website on paternity pay and leave. 

You should return to your original terms and conditions to ensure that you are not subject to an unfair dismissal.

Time off for family responsibilities

If you are a parent who is named on the birth certificate, or has legal responsibility for a child you are entitled to up to 13 weeks unpaid leave to be taken before the childs fifth birthday, or before their 18th birthday if they are disabled.

Your employer may also allow flexible working for people with families.

Time off for emergencies

You have a right to reasonable unpaid leave to deal with certain emergencies affecting a dependent. This could be a child, or another family member, or someone who reasonably relies on you. This could be due to illness, or injury, or a breakdown in normal care arrangements.

There is no set definition of reasonable, so you should discuss your needs with your employer.

More information about this, as well as examples of what is allowed is available at the UK Government website regarding time off for family and dependants.

You have no automatic right to leave for emergencies such as problems with your house, or for bereavement, but many employers have a policy covering this.

Some employers may have specific or enhanced entitlements, such as paid time off in certain situations. If you think that the minimum legal conditions are not being met, speak to the Student Advice Centre.

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