Sick Leave

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Sick leave

The basic sick leave entitlements of all employees are covered in legislation. The provision of five days a year, in most cases, is for your employees to be able to care for themselves or their dependants should they fall ill. A dependant is typically a spouse, partner, dependent child, or anyone who genuinely depends on the employee for care.

Which employees are entitled to sick leave?

All of your employees are entitled to sick leave if they have six months of current and continuous employment with you, or if they have worked for you for six months with an average of 10 hours per week and at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.

Sick leave accrual policy

For each 12-month period current and continuous employment following the six months of current and continuous employment as described above, employees are entitled to an additional five days’ sick leave. If an employee doesn’t meet the criteria, in any year they work for you, they do not accrue any new sick leave until they meet the criteria again. They do however maintain the sick leave they have already accrued.

Importantly, the entitlement to sick leave is not varied depending on part-time or full-time employment. Every employee is entitled to five days’ sick leave per year and can accrue up to 20 days of sick leave a year.

Paying sick leave

Paid sick leave is only an entitlement if the sick day is a day the employee would normally have worked, had they not been sick. If the employee is sick on a day they were not rostered to work, or if they are on unpaid leave, you are not required to pay sick leave.

The payment of sick leave is done at the rate the employee would ordinarily be entitled to, so a standard daily rate or the payment of overtime if this is the case. Put simply, the employee cannot be worse off by taking sick leave than they would have been if they had worked.

The actual paying of sick leave is done in the normal pay cycle.

Can an employee take part of the day sick?

The entitlement to sick leave is covered in the Holidays Act 2003 and is referred to in terms of days. So dividing the day into hours, or part days, is not legislated and if an employee comes in then goes home it is treated as a whole day of sick leave.

However, you can agree with your employees to describe the entitlement in terms of hours if this is a better outcome for the employee.

Can employment agreements alter sick leave entitlements?

As outlined above, sick leave entitlement is covered in the Holidays Act 2003 and regardless of any sick leave policy you have in place your employees must be entitled to the minimum amount of sick leave as outlined in the legislation.

In the event the Employer agrees to sick leave over and above the minimum entitlements, this should be stipulated in the employment agreement.

Sick leave during annual holidays

If an employee, or a dependant of an employee, falls sick before their scheduled annual holidays are to start, the employee may be entitled to a portion of their annual leave as sick leave. Similarly, if one of your employees falls ill when they are on holidays they can change annual leave to sick leave, but only if you agree. You are entitled to ask the employee to prove the sickness before approving the change.

What happens to unused sick leave?

Any unused sick leave at the end of an entitlement period can be carried over and added to their next year’s entitlement. So if after six months an employee gets at least five days’ sick leave and does not use the leave for the following 12 months, they will still get another five days’ sick leave and be left with a total of 10 days’ leave.

Under the Holidays Act 2003, 20 days’ sick leave is the most that can be accrued. However, you may have a sick leave policy which gives employees the ability to have more days accrued.

Sick leave can give employees a chance to take the time off and recover from illness, or to care for a family member. Managing this is important to continue a positive relationship and having good policies in place can ensure there are no shocks when an employee needs to use their sick leave.

For advice and support contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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