Section 4: sickness, maternity leave and leave for other reasons

4.1 Absence through sickness

4.1.1 Notification of sickness and how to claim benefits

Under the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982 and subsequent legislation, employers are responsible for paying certain prescribed rates of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to their employees, regardless of service but subject to certain exclusions, for up to 28 weeks of sickness in any period of incapacity for work.

Some members of staff may find themselves excluded from these arrangements, perhaps because they are over state pension age, or are paid less than the national insurance contribution lower limit, or have already received 28 weeks' SSP. If excluded for these or any of the other stated reasons, you will be sent the SSP1 form by your Departmental Administrator (or equivalent)*, which you can use to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) through your local Jobcentre Plus office. SSP payments will be made as part of salary, and will therefore be liable to tax and national insurance deductions.

* Note: in some departments, faculties and other units the role of Departmental Administrator may be carried out by an equivalent person with a different title.

The procedures under which you apply for, and qualify for, sickness benefit are summarised below:

a) Immediate notification of sickness

If you are unable to attend for work because of illness you, or someone on your behalf, should inform the appropriate person in your department (you should have been notified who this will be but, if in doubt, notify your Departmental Administrator) by telephone on the first day of absence from work. If it is not convenient to telephone, a note written on the first day of absence should be sent. If you fail to provide such notification without good reason, sick pay (including payment under the University's scheme) will be withheld.

b) Sickness absence from work for up to seven days

If you are absent through sickness for up to seven calendar days, you will be asked by your department to complete a self-certification form on your return to work. (The University feels obliged to point out that false statements on this form could lead to prosecution by the Department for Work and Pensions and/or disciplinary action by the University.)

c) Sickness absence from work for more than seven days

If you are absent from work because of sickness for more than seven calendar days, you should obtain a Fit Note, a copy of which should be sent to your department as soon as possible. You should continue to send in Fit Notes until the doctor decides that you are fit to return to work.

Please note that even though a Fit Note is not required for SSP purposes until you have been absent from work for more than seven days, you should nevertheless visit your doctor before that date if you feel sufficiently ill to require medical treatment. If the doctor gives you a Fit Note at that stage, you should forward a copy to the department immediately.

d) Withholding of sick pay

The University may withhold statutory sick pay (and sick pay paid out under its own sick pay scheme) if it has good reason to believe that your illness is not genuine. If the University decides to withhold payment of statutory sick pay for any reason, you will be so informed in writing, and a SSP1 form be issued to you, which entitles you to make claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you disagree with this decision to withhold payment, you should get in touch with your Departmental Administrator and raise the matter informally in the first instance. Alternatively, you can ask HMRC directly for their opinion or request a formal decision to be made on your entitlement to SSP. It is open to you to progress the matter through the grievance procedure if necessary.

e) Qualifying day

The statutory sick pay legislation requires that an employer must agree those days which are to count as qualifying days for statutory sick pay. The question of qualifying days has been raised within the joint committees representing employees within the University and it has been agreed that an employee's qualifying days for SSP will normally be Monday to Friday, or the actual days worked if these are less than five days.  Employees' working patterns should be recorded accurately to ensure an accurate payment of SSP.

f) Sickness affecting annual holiday

If sick absence prevents you taking annual leave or you are taken ill during annual leave, provided you satisfy your department by production of a self-certification form or a Fit Note from your doctor, you will be able to take the leave that you lose (other than leave that would have fallen on public holidays or fixed closure days) at a later date.  You will normally be expected to rearrange this leave during the same holiday year, but, if this is not possible, you may carry the affected leave forward to the next year. The normal reporting requirements for sickness (see 4.1.1(a)) still apply when you are taken ill whilst on annual leave.

g) SSP and the University's own sick pay scheme

The University's own sick pay scheme provides that if you are absent from work through sickness or injury you will be entitled to payment at the rate of full salary, which will include any payment due under the SSP scheme, for such period as your department may determine, following the guidelines provided in section 4.1.2. At the end of this period of full sickness pay, a department has discretion to pay at the rate of part salary for a further period (see 4.1.2) but any such reduction would not normally affect payment of SSP so long as your entitlement to such remains. If you are excluded from the SSP scheme, the University will deduct the amount of any state benefit payable by the Jobcentre Plus from any salary paid. No deductions shall be made from payments at half pay under the University's own sick pay arrangements, except that where the total amount of half pay plus ESA  (previously, incapacity benefit) or other allowances exceeds full pay, a deduction will be made of an amount equivalent to the excess.

h) Holiday during a period of sickness absence

If you have not taken all of your statutory holiday entitlement (pro rata 28 days in total) in the current holiday year, you are entitled to take this holiday during a period of sickness absence if you wish. You should contact your Departmental Administrator to arrange this.

These paragraphs refer only to the main points on sick pay which concern employees. Further information on matters such as sickness during pregnancy etc. may be obtained from your Departmental Administrator.

4.1.2 University sick pay scheme

As noted above, the University's sick pay scheme provides that if an employee is absent from work through sickness or injury he or she will normally be entitled to payment at the rate of full salary in the first instance (which will be inclusive of any payable Statutory Sick Pay scheme (SSP)), for such period as the department may determine, noting the guidelines given below, which should be adhered to at the minimum. At the end of this period of full sickness pay, a department has discretion to pay at the rate of part salary for a further period.

In applying this discretion, departments have been asked to note that the following guidelines for pay during sick leave apply.

Service (*) Full pay (*) Half pay (*)
First three months 2 weeks 2 weeks
Remaining nine months of first year 2 months 2 months
Second and third years 3 months 3 months
Fourth and fifth years 5 months 5 months
After fifth year 6 months 6 months
(*)Inclusive of any university sick pay given in the 12 months preceding the latest period of such leave.

In cases of extended sick leave it is possible that payment of full or half pay under the University's own sick pay scheme may be exhausted, but SSP will continue to be due (primarily affecting employees on extended sick leave with less than 4 years' continuous service). You will be informed by your department if this is about to happen.

If an employee is excluded from the SSP scheme, the University will deduct the amount of any short-term ESA (previously, incapacity benefit) payable by the Jobcentre Plus from any salary paid. No deductions shall be made from payments at half pay under the University's own sick pay arrangements, except that where the total amount of half pay plus ESA or other allowances exceeds full pay, a deduction will be made of an amount equivalent to the excess.

4.1.3 Third party claims for absence caused by an accident

If you are absent from work as the result of an accident or injury that happens whilst you are not at work and is caused by another person (e.g. a car accident), you are not entitled to receive sick pay if damages for loss of earnings are recoverable from the person who caused the accident, who is referred to as the 'third party'. In this event, the University will, having regard to the circumstances of the case, advance you a sum not exceeding your entitlement to sick pay in accordance with the scale of allowances set out in paragraph 4.1.2, on the understanding that, if you are awarded compensation for loss of earnings, you must refund to the University any such compensation you receive, subject to a maximum of the total sum it has advanced to you whilst you were absent.

If you make such a refund, the University will disregard the period of sick leave covered by the refund in making any calculation of entitlement to sick leave payments under the scale of allowances set out in paragraph 4.1.2.

Where no damages for loss of earnings are recovered, the University will waive its right to seek a refund, and the period concerned will be regarded as sick leave. The requirement to refund advances from damages received does not extend to any non-salary related compensatory awards, nor to payments made directly by an insurance company without reference to third party recovery.

4.2 Maternity, adoption, paternity or birth and adoption support leave

The University's schemes for maternity, adoption, paternity or birth and adoption support leave are kept up to date in response to changes in statutory arrangements. Please refer to the guidance on family leave arrangements, and to your Departmental Administrator.

4.3 Time off to care for dependants

Departments will normally grant additional leave in certain circumstances. The University does not attempt to prescribe centrally the amount of additional leave that might be appropriate in each individual case; departments have discretion to authorise such leave according to the circumstances of the individual concerned. The following sections of the handbook describe some of the circumstances in which absence from work, which, depending on the circumstances, may be paid or unpaid, may be allowed.

In every case, save in the case of an emergency occurring overnight, or at the weekend, you must apply in advance to your Departmental Administrator or to the person to whom you would normally report sickness absence, and in no case should you leave your place of work without having obtained permission from that person, or from your head of department, or, where this is the agreed arrangement within the department, from your line manager, who will liaise with the head of department and administrator.

As in the case of their own illness, members of staff who are prevented from attending at their place of work should inform the appropriate person of the reason for the absence as soon as possible on the first day of absence.

4.3.1 Caring for those who are sick, and dealing with domestic emergencies

Absence from work to attend to the sickness of a member of your immediate family or equivalent, or to attend to a family or domestic emergency will normally be paid in the first instance to enable you to make the necessary arrangements for continued care or attention. Such paid leave will normally be limited to a period ranging from half a day to no more than two days. Additional leave, which will normally be unpaid or taken as annual leave, may be granted. In certain exceptional circumstances your department may grant a further limited period of paid leave for these purposes. It is important that these provisions are not abused and departments will monitor the frequency of leave requests.

4.3.2 Bereavement Leave

Leave of absence to attend the funeral of a person with whom there has been a close personal relationship, or to carry out executorial duties, will normally be granted as paid leave outside your annual leave. Sympathetic consideration will be given to the need for additional paid time away from work if you are coming to terms with such bereavement. When your own health is adversely affected by bereavement, a short period of sick leave might be more appropriate and your Departmental Administrator will advise you accordingly. If you require extended time away from work to travel to or from a funeral or to carry out non-executorial duties associated with a death, you should discuss your requirements with your Departmental Administrator or head of department, or, where this is the agreed arrangement within the department, with your line manager, who will liaise with the head of department and administrator, who may, at his or her discretion, grant leave, which will normally be unpaid or taken as annual leave. Departments may, however, in certain exceptional circumstances, grant a further limited period of paid leave for such purposes.

4.4 Leave for other reasons

A department may exceptionally grant additional leave, with or without pay, in certain circumstances. The following are some of the circumstances in which absence from work may be allowed. In every case you must apply in advance to your Departmental Administrator and in no case should you leave your place of work without having obtained permission from that person, or your head of department.

4.4.1 Visits to doctor, etc

If it is necessary for you to arrange to visit, during the normal working day, to your doctor, dentist or a hospital to receive treatment, or for screening for cancer, attempts should be made to arrange the visit in such a way as to disrupt the work of your department as little as possible. Permission to attend will not be unreasonably withheld.

4.4.2 Antenatal appointments

All pregnant employees are entitled to time off with pay to keep appointments for antenatal care made on the advice or their registered medical practitioner, midwife, or health visitor. Department of Trade and Industry guidance suggests that this entitlement can cover relaxation and parent craft classes.

4.4.3 Election to Westminster or European Parliament

Two days of paid leave will be granted to employees who are standing as bona fide candidates for election to Westminster or the European Parliament and who have taken three or more days of personal leave in connection with their candidacy. This leave is to be taken at any reasonable time subject to operational requirements, noting that one of the two days offered by the University is to cover, where possible, the day of election.

4.4.4 Jury service

If you receive a summons to serve on a jury you should report this to your department. Leave to attend for jury service is normally given with full pay, in which case no claim for loss of earnings should be made to the Crown.

4.4.5 Voluntary public service

Members of staff should obtain the agreement of their head of department to the time-off involved before undertaking voluntary public service. Departments will grant reasonable paid leave of absence to such members of staff required to attend council meetings, to serve as magistrates, school governors etc.

4.4.6 Volunteer Reserve Forces

Staff who are members of Britain's Volunteer Reserve Forces (Territorial Army, Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force) who are required to attend a two week summer training exercise may be granted one week's paid leave for this purpose, the remaining week to be taken within the employee's normal annual leave entitlement.

4.4.7 Young workers' right to paid leave for study

Employees aged sixteen to seventeen who have not achieved a recognised standard in their education or training have the right to reasonable time off with pay to study or train for a relevant qualification which will help them achieve that standard. Those employees aged eighteen who have commenced such study will have the right to complete their studies.

4.4.8 Other statutory rights to time off work

(Full details on these rights can be obtained from your Departmental Administrator.)

Certain employees have rights to take time off work for recognised activities. This includes members and officers of recognised trade unions, who are allowed time for specific trade union duties and activities, safety representatives, trustees of occupational pension schemes, and employee representatives acting under consultation requirements for either redundancy or business transfer (TUPE).

4.5 Absence from work

The effective operation of these arrangements in the interests of all employees is dependent on requests for additional leave being made only when necessary and in good faith. Against the general background set out in the introduction, your Departmental Administrator may in appropriate circumstances ask for reasonable evidence that the leave requested is required for the purpose stated and withholding such evidence may result in loss of pay. Absence from work without good cause may also result in disciplinary action.