Being off work because you’re disabled is not the same as time off for ‘being ill’.
There are 3 ways you can be absent from work:
annual leave (normally paid, but some employers might let you ‘buy’ more leave)
If your employer knows that you are disabled, flexible working and time off for medical appointments can be reasonable adjustments.
Time off because of disability
It’s your decision who you tell about your condition or impairment and when. In most cases it's best to let your employer know if you are taking time off because of your condition, not because you are ill.
If your employer knows that you’re disabled, you have greater protections under the Equality Act 2010. Reasonable adjustments under the act can include things such as flexible working to allow for medical appointments.
If your employer does not know that you’re disabled, then they will treat you as just being ‘ill’. This means that their usual sick leave policy will apply to you. Most policies do not allow time off for medical appointments. If your employer does not know that you’re disabled, this is not a legal right.
Talking with your employer about your condition is also an opportunity to talk about the support you need at work. Working with your employer to see what kinds of changes are possible is what the law calls a ‘reasonable adjustment’.
Time off work because of disability can be:
planned (time off for medical and hospital appointments is a common example)
unplanned (if your condition or something in the environment changes like ice on pavements if you have a mobility impairment)
Flexible working can be a reasonable adjustment. If your employer knows that you are disabled, you can review the adjustments to see if they’re working.
If your absence is because of a pre-existing condition, you may need to discuss reasonable adjustments with your employer. If you already have some reasonable adjustments, it may be time to review these.
If you’ve recently become disabled, you may want to discuss this so that you can get reasonable adjustments.
Your sick leave depends on:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
your employer’s sickness policies
Always tell your employer as soon as you know you are taking sick leave.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
SSP is £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks. Your employer might pay you more.
To get SSP, you need to be in work and not be self-employed. You also must:
have started work with your employer
be sick for 4 full days or more in a row (including non-working days)
earn on average at least £118 per week (before tax)
SSP is the legal minimum that your employer must pay.
Check your employer’s sickness policies to find out what they will give you. Contact your HR department if you need more information.
Some employers may treat sickness differently if it’s related to disability, but most do not. Look for how many days you are allowed, and what happens when you take them, for example:
return to work meetings
Look for bits of the policy which say things like:
‘If you go back to work after 5 days or more of sick, a back to work interview is required.’
‘If you are off sick for more than 10 days, a disciplinary meeting will be held with your line manager’
This may be different during your probation period. When your absence is disability-related, it may be best to discuss your condition with your employer. If you need reasonable adjustments when you go back to work, tell your employer that your absence is disability-related.
If you’re sick for longer than 28 weeks
If you tell your employer that your absence is disability-related, you protect your legal rights and entitlements.
Time off for medical appointments
Time off for medical appointments connected to disability can be a reasonable adjustment. If your employer knows that you’re disabled and you do not get time off for appointments, this could be discrimination.
If your employer does not know that you’re disabled, you do not have a legal right to time off for medical appointments unless this is in your contract.