Time Off Work

You are entitled to a certain amount of time off work for holidays and breaks (see our guide on Hours, Holidays and Rest Breaks for more information). You may also need time off due to illness, 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 have instructions about how you should do this; if not contact your line manager in the first instance to ask what you need to do. 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 anything 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Since April 2010 ‘sick notes’ have been replaced by ‘fit notes’.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 you 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 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 states 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 £123 a week.

The rate of sick pay is £99.35 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 to each day you are sick. If you work 5 days a week, the daily rate is £99.35 ÷ 5 = £19.87. The first 3 days of illness are not counted, so if you are sick for two weeks (10 working days) you would get a total of £198.70.

Your employer may give you more than the statutory sick pay, if this has been stipulated 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, and the leave cannot normally start before the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. 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.

You are entitled to be paid a proportion of your earnings for some of this time, provided you meet certain conditions related to earnings and length of employment. If you do not meet these conditions you may be entitled to some benefits.

Your employers 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. While you are pregnant you are also entitled to reasonable time off for antenatal appointments and classes.

If you take ordinary maternity leave (26 weeks) you are entitled to return to the same job you were doing before your maternity leave, and if you take the extra 26 weeks of additional maternity leave, you will have the right to return to this job if it is reasonably practicable.

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, provided you have worked for the same employer continuously for 26 weeks by the end for 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 may be entitled to some payment for this time off; for more guidance please consult the UK Government website on paternity pay and leave.

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

Time off for family responsibilities

A working parent, unless they are specifically excluded from being entitled to parental leave, is entitled to unpaid leave if they have to look after a qualifying child. A qualifying child is a child aged under 18.

To qualify for parental leave, a parent must have been employed for one year by the same employer by the time the parental leave is due to start, have responsibility for a child aged under 18 and take leave for the purpose of caring for the child.

If you are a parent who is named on the birth certificate, or has legal responsibility for a child, you are entitled up to 13 weeks unpaid leave to be taken before the child’s 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, 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. 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 Students’ Union Advice Service for advice.

What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?

The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential, and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students. 

The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:

  • Explain your rights in relation to employment legislation and signpost where appropriate to external advice services.
  • Review any draft statements that you prepare and offer suggestions.
  • Accompany you where appropriate to any meetings to provide support and representation.
  • Help you to collate appropriate evidence to support your case.

Contact an Advisor

Useful links

First Produced: September 2020

Reviewed: September 2023