Employers tricking people out of sick pay

07 March 2017

Some employers are trying to avoid paying sick pay to people who are too ill to work by using tactics such as taking them off rotas and cutting their wages, reveals Citizens Advice.

The charity is urging people who need to take time off work for illness to check if they’re eligible for sick pay. Citizens Advice helped people with more than 1800 problems with sick pay and sick leave in February 2016, 11% more than average for the rest of the year.

People are entitled to be paid if they’re off work for four working days or more, and earn more than £112 a week. However, evidence from the charity shows that some employers are exploiting confusion around the rules to try and get away with not paying people who need time off for illness or injury.

Tactics used by employers include:

  • Cancelling people’s shifts after they call in sick, so that it looks like they aren’t meant to be working

  • Reducing people’s wages and downplaying their working hours so they don’t meet the £112 earnings threshold

  • Saying that they need a GP note as evidence they’re ill for even a few days off, even though people can self-certify for up to 7 days

  • Refusing to fill in a HMRC sick pay form, which would make employers explain their reasons for not paying

  • Sacking people rather than paying them.

Despite employers’ attempts to dodge sick pay, people who have their hours changed for example will often still be eligible - but don’t realise that they are.

Examples seen by Citizens Advice include one man who worked 5 days a week in a factory, but had a casual contract stating he worked 7 hours. When he was off sick, his employer tried to deny him sick pay on the basis he didn’t work enough hours or earn enough, although in practice he did.

A carer on a zero hour contract contacted Citizens Advice for help after she was signed off for 7 days for a work-related injury. Her employer cancelled her shifts for the next 3 weeks in an attempt to argue that she wasn’t due to be working - whereas in reality she’d already committed to the work.

With cold and flu season underway, Citizens Advice is urging people who are too ill to work to check if they are eligible for sick pay, and to seek advice if they believe they are but their employer won’t pay.