How long can you be on sick leave before dismissal in the UK?

How long can you be on sick leave before dismissal in the UK? - Centric HR

When on sick leave, the last thing you want to be stressing about is whether your employer will dismiss you for not being at work, and what your legal rights are regarding sick leave. In this article, Centric HR will explain whether you can be dismissed as a result of sickness, as well as whether you can be made redundant for the same reasons. 

So how long can you be on sick leave before dismissal in the UK? After a period of long term sickness, usually over 4 weeks, a company can dismiss you based on your incapability to work, as long as they can prove that there are no reasonable adjustments they can make to aid your return to work.

Read on to learn more about dismissal whilst on sick leave and whether you can appeal dismissal as a result of long term sickness. 

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Can you be dismissed whilst on sick leave? 

If you are persistently off sick, or on sick leave for a long period of time, usually over 4 weeks, your employer should work with you to try and find alternatives that could help you to continue your work. 

For example, if you have developed a particular disability, then your employer could look at ways to improve your accessibility and comfortability at the workplace in order to help you return back to work. 

Alternatively, it could be that you have developed mental health issues, such as social anxiety, and your employer could look at ways to make it easier for you to be in the workplace, such as potentially moving you to a quieter office. 

It might even be that you have developed a long term heart problem that is made worse by stress. In this case, your employer could look at management methods to reduce your workload, stress and any unnecessary negative burdens from your day to day job in order to help you come back to work safely. 

If your employer has tried to make reasonable adjustments in order for you to be able to do your job, but you are still unable to come back to work, then they can fairly dismiss you based on your incapability to fulfill the job. 

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How long can you be on sick leave before dismissal in the UK?

After a period of long term sickness, usually over 4 weeks, a company can dismiss you based on your incapability to work, as long as they can prove that there are no reasonable adjustments they can make to aid your ability to complete the job in your circumstances. 

However, there are factors that have to be considered, such as how long it will take you to recover, how certain it is you will recover, how easy it is to cover your job, and whether your job can be kept open. 

If you have a disability which coincides with long term illness, your employer has a legal responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to help you get back to work. Dismissal because of a disability can be considered unlawful discrimination. 

Can you be made redundant due to ill health? 

Redundancy is the dismissal from your job due to your employer needing to reduce their workforce. There can be many reasons for this such as there no longer being a requirement for your role, the need to cut costs, the business is closing down or going bankrupt, or the business is moving location. 

That being said, redundancy is completely irrelevant to any sick leave or ill health and if your employer uses that as a reason to make you redundant you may want to look into appealing this via legal action

How long can you be on long term sickness?

Typically, if you are ill for more than 7 days you will need to provide proof of illness via a doctor’s note with your reason for being on sick leave. Alternatively, if agreed with by your employer, you can provide a note from physiotherapists, podiatrists or occupational therapists instead but it is important to note that if you request any of these sickness notes before the 7 day sickness period you may be required to pay a charge. 

After this 7 day period, the process to help you get back to work starts, but may differ for each person. There is no maximum amount of time that you can be on long term sickness for. 

From here, your employer can take a number of steps to see whether they can support you back into employment and whether you will realistically ever be able to come back to work. 

Initial meeting:

Your employer can have a meeting with you to discuss your situation and what you think they could do to help you come back to work. This allows you to have some input into the situation and work with your employer on a solution. 

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Contact a medical professional:

The employer can contact a medical professional to seek advice or gain access to more information about your illness which could help them make decisions on how to help you come back to work as well as whether you will ever be able to come back to work. 

Reasonable adjustments:

Your employer can complete a closing review to determine whether there are any reasonable adjustments that they can make to help you come back to work, but if they fairly determine that there aren’t any adjustments they can make then they can dismiss you at any point. 

Can you appeal dismissal as a result of long-term sickness?

If you believe that you have been unfairly dismissed as a result  of long-term sickness, then you can appeal to the employment tribunal. The grounds for making a claim to the employment tribunal include:

  • You feel you have been unfairly dismissed 
  • You feel you have been discriminated against 
  • You feel you have had unfair deductions from your pay

The tribunal is independent of the government and will provide an unbiased judgement as to whether the employer has unfairly dismissed you. 

HR consulting at Centric HR:

Centric HR provide HR Consultancy services to help and advise businesses with HR related topics such as improving company efficiency, attracting new employees and employee relations. 

Centric HR can also provide advice on how to handle long-term sickness in your business as well as informing you of your rights and the laws you have to follow. 

For more information on Centric HR’s consultancy services click here.     



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Sandra Berns

Sandra Berns

Centric HR was founded by Sandra Berns, a confident and versatile Human Resources and Organisational Development Practitioner with 25 years demonstrable experience and a Fellow of the CIPD. Sandra has both Operational and Strategic HR expertise across Public and Private sectors and has assisted senior teams in meeting challenging workforce objectives in many corporate environments.