Sick leave and pay

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Rights and conditions
02 November 2016
Sick woman
Most people will need to take time off work at some point in their working lives, whether through illness, surgery or injury. It is a statutory requirement that your contract should include any terms relating to absence through illness or injury, including any terms relating to sick pay.

If you are on long-term sick leave, you may want to take advice on your pension position by contacting ATL.

Your rights

If you are a teacher in a maintained school in England and Wales, your entitlement to salary while on sick leave - set out in the Burgundy Book - increases each year from 25 working days on full pay (plus an additional 50 days on half pay after completing four months' service) in the first year of service, to 100 days on full pay and a further 100 days on half pay in the fourth and successive years of service.

For staff employed under the Local Government Services' Green Book, entitlement to sick pay increases in each year of service over the first five years, after which there is an entitlement to six months' full pay and half pay for a further six months. The sick pay entitlement for other staff, including those employed in independent establishments, will be governed by the terms laid down in their contracts of employment.

Your responsibilities

Your school or college policy may require you to ring in by a certain time in the morning. It should also state who you must contact. The time is likely to be before the start of the school or college day so may be quite early. You will be required to ring in yourself, unless you are too ill to do so, in which case you should ask someone to ring in on your behalf as soon as possible.

If you ring in late - perhaps because you have been admitted to hospital or are too ill to get out of bed - you should explain why. If you do not ring in this may be judged as unauthorised absence, which could lead to disciplinary action against you and/or you losing pay for each day you do not inform your employer of your absence. You will also be expected to indicate how long you think you may be off, when you will next be in contact and if you have pending work at school or college. This applies to short and long-term absences.

You must obtain a medical certificate for your absence - and ensure your employer receives it - if you are off sick for more than seven calendar days. You will be required to complete a self-certificate upon your return to work for absences of seven days or less (this practice may be different with some private employers).

If you are off sick, it is always advisable to cooperate as far as possible with any request from your employer for information regarding your absence and when you expect to return to work. You may be asked to attend a consultation with your employer's occupational health physician or nominated consultant, and you should comply with such a request.

Discipline and dismissal

A common misconception is that as long as an employee sends in appropriate sick notes from a GP, he or she cannot be dismissed for absence due to illness or injury. This is not so - 'capability' (which includes health) is a potential issue for fair dismissal. Factors that would be taken into account by an employment tribunal would be:

  • what consultation the employer had with the employee
  • the length of the absence
  • whether the employer has conducted a medical investigation to find out the nature of the employee's ill health
  • when he or she was likely to be fit to return to work
  • whether consideration has been given to alternative employment, if available.

However, in cases of persistent short-term absences, the employer would be expected to conduct a fair review of the employee's absence record, including reasons for absence. They must provide an opportunity for the employee to make a representation, and give appropriate warnings of dismissal if there is no improvement.


If you are disabled within the terms of the Equality Act 2010, the employer should consider whether there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made to assist you, such as altering working hours and allowing extra non-contact time.

It may be unlawful to dismiss you for absence arising from a disability about which your employer has been informed. You should contact ATL for individual advice as soon as possible.

Further education agreements

ATL and the national employers' body (the Association of Colleges) have agreed a national guideline agreement which establishes recommended minimum standards for colleges and FE institutions for sickness leave.

Relevant ATL publications