Holiday, Sickness and Leave

holiday sickness leave


Managing employee time off is an everyday demand for employers, both to ensure employees receive their full legal entitlements, and to maintain a fair and productive workplace.


A. Holiday Entitlement


Holiday entitlement is a fundamental employment right, ensuring that employees have the opportunity to take time off work to rest and recharge.

In the UK, statutory regulations provide clear guidelines on the minimum amount of annual leave employees are entitled to and how it should be calculated. As a means of attracting and retaining talent, many employers offer enhanced holiday entitlement under the terms of their employment contracts.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, all employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year.

For full-time employees, this typically equates to 28 days of paid holiday per year, which is 5.6 weeks, including public holidays, if the employer chooses to include them as part of the statutory entitlement.

For part-time employees, entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis. For example, an employee working three days a week would be entitled to 16.8 days of paid holiday (3 days x 5.6 weeks).

Employers cannot deny this statutory holiday entitlement, nor can they replace it with a payment in lieu, except when an employee leaves the job. Employers can determine when holidays can be taken but must provide adequate notice and respect the employee’s right to rest and recuperate.

The statutory leave entitlement cannot be replaced with a payment in lieu, except when an employee leaves the job.


B. Holiday for Irregular Hours and Part-Year Workers


Employers must ensure that irregular hours and part-year workers receive fair holiday entitlements. Under UK law, holiday entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis, reflecting the hours or days worked. Employers should keep accurate records of hours worked to calculate the correct holiday pay. For irregular hours workers, holiday entitlement typically accrues as a percentage of hours worked, calculated at 12.07% of hours worked to reflect the statutory 5.6 weeks’ annual leave.

Employers must keep accurate records of hours worked to correctly calculate holiday pay for these employees.


C. Sick Leave


Managing sickness absence is a crucial aspect of employment, ensuring that employees receive the support they need while maintaining workplace productivity and minimising disruption to operations.

Employers should have clear policies for handling sickness absence, including procedures for sending an employee home if they become ill at work and for managing long-term sickness absences.

Employers must keep accurate records of all sick leave taken, including dates of absence and any SSP paid. This documentation is essential for compliance and can help identify patterns or issues related to absenteeism.

When an employee is ready to return to work, employers should conduct a return-to-work interview.

Terminating employment due to illness should be a last resort, following comprehensive procedures and consideration of all alternatives.


D. Sick Pay


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a legal requirement in the UK, ensuring that employees receive a minimum level of pay when they are unable to work due to illness.

To be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), employees must meet several criteria. They must be classed as employees and have performed some work for their employer, earning an average of at least £123 per week (as of April 2024).

Additionally, they must have been ill for at least four consecutive days, including non-working days, and must inform their employer within the specified timeframe, usually within seven days.

SSP is not payable for the first three days of sickness absence, known as waiting days, unless the employee has been sick within the last eight weeks and received SSP during that time.


E. Fit Notes When Off Sick


Employees can self-certify their sickness for up to seven days. For longer absences, they need a fit note (formerly known as a sick note) from a GP or other authorised healthcare professional. This note provides evidence of their inability to work and outlines any recommendations for a phased return or adjustments needed.


a. Employer Responsibilities

Employers must accept fit notes as evidence of an employee’s illness and follow the recommendations provided. Verification should be limited to confirming the authenticity of the fit note if there is any doubt about its validity.

If the fit note indicates that the employee may be fit for work with adjustments, the employer should consider these recommendations seriously. This may involve modifying the employee’s duties, hours, or working conditions to accommodate their health needs.
Employers should keep accurate records of all fit notes and any related correspondence. This documentation is crucial for managing sickness absence and ensuring compliance with employment laws.

Employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are off sick for more than four consecutive days and meet the eligibility criteria. Employers should ensure that SSP or any contractual sick pay is processed accurately and promptly.


b. Employee Rights

Employees have the right to privacy regarding their medical condition. Employers should handle fit notes confidentially and only share information on a need-to-know basis.

Employees should be supported in their return to work, following the recommendations on the fit note. A phased return, adjusted duties, or flexible working arrangements may be necessary to facilitate a smooth transition back to work.


F. Getting a Doctor’s Report About an Employee’s Health


When managing employee health issues, employers might need additional medical information to make informed decisions. Requesting a doctor’s report about an employee’s health is a sensitive matter governed by strict legal requirements to protect employee privacy and rights.
Employers may request a medical report from an employee’s doctor to better understand the employee’s health condition and its impact on their work. This should be done with the employee’s consent, following the guidelines set out in the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988.


a. Employee Consent

Employers must obtain the employee’s written consent before requesting a medical report. Employees have the right to refuse the request, though this might limit the employer’s ability to make informed decisions about workplace adjustments or fitness for work.

Employees must be informed about their rights under the Act, including the right to see the report before it is sent to the employer, the right to request amendments if the report is inaccurate or misleading, and the right to withhold consent for the report to be shared.


b. Process for Obtaining a Report

Employers should notify the employee in writing, outlining the reason for the request and the specific information needed. This should include details on how the information will be used and the implications of providing the report.

Once the report is prepared, the employee has 21 days to review it. They can request corrections to any inaccuracies. If the doctor refuses to amend the report, the employee can attach a statement of their views to the report.


c. Confidentiality and Use of Information

Medical reports must be handled confidentially and stored securely. Access should be limited to individuals who need the information to make decisions regarding the employee’s health and work adjustments.

The information obtained from the medical report should only be used for the purpose for which it was requested. Employers should avoid using the information for any unrelated decisions or actions.


G. Time Off for Medical Appointments


Employees may need time off for medical appointments.

While there is no overarching legal requirement in UK law mandating paid time off for medical appointments for most employees, several employment laws and best practices guide employers in handling these requests.

Employers should accommodate these requests reasonably and may ask for proof of appointments. For operations or serious treatments, employers should provide additional support and flexibility.


a. Employee Rights

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must provide reasonable adjustments for disabled employees, which can include allowing time off for medical appointments related to their disability. Pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off for antenatal appointments.

The terms of an employee’s contract or company policies may outline specific provisions for time off for medical appointments. Employers must adhere to these terms and ensure consistency when applying them.

If not covered by contractual agreements or specific laws, time off for medical appointments can be treated as unpaid leave. However, many employers choose to offer paid leave as part of their benefits package to support employee wellbeing.


b. Employer Responsibilities

Employers should establish clear procedures for requesting time off for medical appointments. Employees should notify their employer as soon as possible, providing details of the appointment and expected duration of absence.

Employers may request proof of medical appointments, such as an appointment card or letter. This helps ensure that the time off is legitimate and minimises potential abuse of the policy.

Employers should consider offering flexible working arrangements to accommodate medical appointments, such as allowing employees to make up time or work from home. This approach supports employee health while minimising disruption to business operations.


H. Covid Advice for Employers


The Covid-19 pandemic introduced unique challenges in the workplace. Policies should be updated to reflect these new realities and provide clear instructions for both health safety and operational continuity.


I. Time Off for Dependants


Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving dependants. This provision ensures that employees can address urgent situations such as illness, injury, or unexpected care arrangements for a child, spouse, parent, or someone who depends on them for care.

Employers must ensure fair and consistent application of this entitlement, treating all employees equally and respecting their right to manage personal emergencies. Proper documentation and clear policies help maintain transparency and compliance.


a. Employer Responsibilities

Employers must allow employees to take time off for dependants without fear of dismissal or disciplinary action. The time off should be sufficient to deal with the immediate emergency, typically a day or two, depending on the situation. Employers are not required to pay employees for this time off unless specified in the employment contract or company policy.


b. Employee Responsibilities

Employees should inform their employer as soon as possible about their need for time off, including the reason and the expected duration. While advance notice is not always possible due to the emergency nature of the leave, communication should be prompt once the employee is able to do so.


J. Time Off Work for Bereavement


Bereavement leave allows employees to take time off work following the death of a close family member or dependent. While there is no statutory entitlement for bereavement leave in the UK, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 entitles parents to two weeks of paid leave if they lose a child under 18 or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.


a. Employee Responsibilities

Employees should inform their employer as soon as possible about their need for bereavement leave. Employers may request reasonable proof of the bereavement, such as a death certificate, to grant the leave.


b. Employer Responsibilities

Employers should have a clear bereavement policy outlining the amount of leave granted and whether it is paid or unpaid. While not legally required, many employers offer compassionate leave to support grieving employees.

Employers must handle bereavement leave requests with sensitivity and compassion, ensuring fair treatment for all employees. Providing additional support, such as access to counselling services or flexible working arrangements upon return, can help employees cope during this difficult time.


K. Time Off Work for Parents


Parental leave encompasses maternity, paternity, adoption, and shared parental leave. Each type has specific eligibility criteria and entitlements, ensuring parents can take time off to care for their children and balance work and family responsibilities without fear of losing their jobs or income.


a. Maternity Leave

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, eligible employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, comprising 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. Employers must also provide Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks.


b. Paternity Leave

Eligible fathers or partners can take up to two weeks of paternity leave, which must be taken within 56 days of the child’s birth or adoption placement. Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) is provided during this period.


c. Adoption Leave

Adoptive parents are entitled to similar leave and pay rights as birth parents, including up to 52 weeks of adoption leave and Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) for up to 39 weeks.


d. Parental Leave

Employees with at least one year of continuous service can take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child under 18. This leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week, with a maximum of four weeks per year.


L. Carer’s Leave


The Carers’ Leave Act came into force on 6 April 2024, giving employees who provide long-term care for dependants the right to take carer’s leave.

Under the Act, employees are entitled to one week of unpaid carers’ leave per year (starting from the day they begin employment). This leave can be taken in full for a single event or split into half or full days throughout the year to accommodate various caring needs.

Employees cannot be dismissed or treated less favourably because they requested or took carers’ leave.

While the leave is unpaid, employees retain their employment rights during this period, including their right to return to the same or a similar job after the leave ends.


a. Employee Responsibilities
Employees must give their employers at least three days’ notice for a planned leave request.

If the leave request is for more than one day, employees need to provide double the amount of notice (e.g., six days’ notice for two days of leave).


b. Employer Responsibilities
Employers cannot unreasonably refuse a request for carers’ leave. However, they can request to delay the leave if it would cause serious disruption to the business.

In such cases, the employer must agree on an alternative date within one month of the employee’s original request, and provide written justification for the delay within seven days of the request or before leave starts (whichever is earlier).

Employers are recommended to keep a record of all carers’ leave requests and their responses.


M. Supporting Disabled People at Work


Employers have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to support employees with qualifying disabilities and ensure they are treated fairly in the workplace. This includes making reasonable adjustments to remove or reduce disadvantages faced by disabled employees.


a. Reasonable Adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to the workplace or work practices to accommodate disabled employees. These adjustments could include modifying workstations, providing assistive technologies, adjusting work hours, or altering job duties to match the employee’s abilities.


b. Preventing Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled employees from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. Employers must ensure that all employment practices, including recruitment, promotion, and disciplinary actions, are free from discrimination and bias.


c. Accessibility and Inclusion

Creating an inclusive workplace involves more than just physical adjustments. Employers should foster a culture of inclusivity, providing disability awareness training and promoting an environment where all employees feel valued and supported.


d. Support and Resources

Employers should provide access to resources such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and occupational health services to support the wellbeing of disabled employees. Regular communication and feedback can help identify any additional needs and ensure ongoing support.


N. Disruption Getting to Work


Travel problems, extreme weather, public transport strikes and other disruptions can affect an employee’s ability to get to work. Employers should have policies in place to handle such situations, offering flexibility and understanding to affected employees.


a. Attendance and Pay

Generally, employees are expected to make reasonable efforts to attend work. If disruptions occur, employers should clarify whether employees will be paid for time missed. This policy should be outlined in employment contracts or company handbooks.


b. Flexible Working

Employers should consider implementing flexible working arrangements during disruptions. Options include allowing employees to work from home, adjusting start and finish times, or making up missed hours at a later date. Flexible working helps maintain productivity and employee wellbeing.


c. Safety Considerations

Employee safety should be a priority. Employers should not penalise employees who cannot safely travel to work due to severe weather or other hazards. Clear communication about expectations and safety guidelines is essential during such events.


d. Communication

Employers must communicate promptly and clearly about any disruptions and their impact on work arrangements. Using multiple channels, such as emails, text messages, or intranet updates, ensures that all employees receive timely information.


O. Returning to Work After Absence


Employers must handle the return-to-work process carefully to support employees and ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace. Key rules include conducting return-to-work interviews, making necessary adjustments, and maintaining clear communication.


a. Return-to-Work Interviews

Conducting a return-to-work interview is crucial. This meeting helps assess the employee’s readiness, discuss the reason for the absence, and identify any ongoing health concerns or support needed. It also provides an opportunity to update the employee on any changes that occurred during their absence.


b. Reasonable Adjustments

Employers may need to make reasonable adjustments to support the returning employee, especially if the absence was due to illness or injury. Adjustments could include modified duties, flexible working hours, or workplace accommodations to ensure the employee can perform their job effectively and safely.


c. Communication

Clear and consistent communication is essential. Employers should inform the employee about any changes in their role or workplace policies and provide necessary updates. Maintaining open lines of communication helps address any concerns and facilitates a smoother reintegration process.


d. Supporting Employee Wellbeing

Employers should provide access to support services, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or occupational health services, to assist employees in managing their return to work.


P. Keeping in Touch During Absence


Maintaining communication with employees during their absence is crucial for ensuring a smooth return to work and providing necessary support. Key rules for employers include establishing regular contact while respecting privacy, and offering support resources.


a. Regular Contact

Employers should agree on a suitable frequency and method of communication with the absent employee. Regular check-ins can help monitor the employee’s progress, provide updates on workplace developments, and address any concerns the employee may have.


b. Respecting Privacy

While maintaining contact is important, employers must respect the employee’s privacy and not pressure them to return to work prematurely. Discussions should be supportive and focused on the employee’s wellbeing and any assistance they might need.


c. Offering Support

Employers should offer access to support services such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or occupational health services. These resources can help employees manage their health and prepare for their return to work.


d. Documentation

Keep records of all communications with the absent employee, including dates, topics discussed, and any agreed-upon actions. This documentation helps ensure transparency and consistency in managing the absence.


Q. Creating Absence Policies


Employers should have clear absence policies detailing how different types of absences are managed. These policies should outline procedures, employee rights, and employer expectations, ensuring everyone is aware of their entitlements and responsibilities.


a. Define Types of Absence

Employers should clearly outline the different types of absence, such as sick leave, annual leave, bereavement leave, and time off for dependants. Each type should have specific guidelines and entitlements.


b. Establish Procedures

Set clear procedures for reporting absences, including who to notify, how to provide medical evidence (like fit notes), and the expected timeline for doing so. Detail the process for managing long-term absences, including return-to-work interviews and necessary adjustments.


c. Fairness and Consistency

Ensure that the absence policy is applied consistently across the organisation to prevent any perceptions of favouritism or unfair treatment. This includes standardising how absences are recorded and how disciplinary actions are handled for excessive or unauthorised absences.


d. Communication

Communicate the absence policy clearly to all employees, making it easily accessible through employee handbooks or the company intranet. Regularly remind staff of the policy and provide training if necessary.


R. Managing Sickness Absence


Effectively managing sickness absence is essential for maintaining productivity and supporting employee wellbeing. Employers must follow legal requirements and adopt best practices to handle absences fairly and consistently.


a. Clear Policies

Develop and communicate clear sickness absence policies outlining reporting procedures, medical evidence requirements, and return-to-work processes. Ensure all employees have access to these policies and understand them.


b. Reporting and Documentation

Employees should report their illness as soon as possible. Employers must keep accurate records of all absences, including dates, reasons, and supporting medical documentation. This helps track patterns and manage absences effectively.


c. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, eligible employees are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the fourth consecutive day of illness. Employers must ensure SSP is paid promptly and correctly.


d. Return-to-Work Interviews

Conduct return-to-work interviews to understand the reasons for absence, assess readiness to resume duties, and discuss any necessary adjustments to prevent future absences.
e. Reasonable Adjustments
Consider making reasonable adjustments for employees with long-term health conditions or disabilities, as required by the Equality Act 2010. This might include flexible working hours or modified duties.


S. Unauthorised Absence and Lateness


Unauthorised absence and lateness must be managed effectively to maintain workplace discipline and productivity. Employers should establish clear policies and procedures to address these issues fairly and consistently.


a. Clear Policies

Develop comprehensive policies outlining the expectations for attendance and punctuality. Include the procedures for reporting absences and lateness, and the consequences for failing to follow these procedures. Ensure all employees are aware of and understand these policies.


b. Recording and Monitoring

Keep accurate records of all instances of unauthorised absence and lateness. This helps in identifying patterns and addressing any underlying issues that may be causing these behaviors.


c. Communication

Address unauthorised absences and lateness promptly by discussing the issues with the employee involved. Understanding the reasons behind their behavior can help in finding solutions and preventing future occurrences.


d. Disciplinary Procedures

Follow a fair and consistent disciplinary process for repeated unauthorised absences and lateness. This should align with the organisation’s disciplinary policy and may include warnings, meetings, and, if necessary, formal disciplinary action.


e. Support and Adjustment

Consider any underlying issues such as personal problems or health conditions that may be contributing to unauthorised absence or lateness. Offer support and reasonable adjustments where appropriate, in line with the Equality Act 2010.


T. Absence Trigger Points


Absence trigger points are specific thresholds set by employers to identify and manage frequent or prolonged employee absences. These thresholds help employers recognise patterns of absenteeism and address them proactively through further investigation and support measures to address the issue.


a. Employer Responsibilities

Employers must establish clear, fair absence management policies that include defined trigger points. These policies should be communicated transparently to all employees. Employers are responsible for accurately recording all absences and monitoring attendance to identify when trigger points are reached. When an employee hits a trigger point, employers should review the situation, conduct a meeting with the employee, and explore the underlying reasons for their absences. Employers must ensure that any actions taken are consistent, non-discriminatory, and in compliance with legal obligations, such as making reasonable adjustments for disabled employees under the Equality Act 2010.


b. Employee Rights

Employees have the right to be informed about absence policies and trigger points. They are entitled to fair and consistent application of these policies. Employees can expect a confidential and respectful discussion about their absences and any necessary support or adjustments to help improve attendance. They also have the right to appeal any decisions they feel are unfair.




Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing & Content Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.