Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick in the UK?

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In this guide, we will discuss “Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick UK”, what happens if you work only part-time, when is your year of service supposed to start, what can you do if you feel unwell, occupational health referral, reasons to be dismissed and unfair dismissal.

Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick UK?

A teacher can be sacked for being off sick in the UK. Normally, employers will try to implement other strategies before dismissing an employer because of being on long-term sickness absence or not being able to perform their job anymore. 

Supporting this argument, the NASUWT Teachers Union indicates in their sickness absence policy, “The policy confirms that no employee will be dismissed on grounds of sickness absence without due warning and without following an agreed Sickness Procedure. All possible alternatives to dismissal will be thoroughly explored with the employee and their trade union.”

Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick in the UK?

In terms of the sick pay scheme and as indicated by the National Education Union, “For most teachers, sick leave and sick pay entitlements are set out in the Burgundy Book national agreement on conditions of service. Details are set out below. The vast majority of local authorities follow the terms of the Burgundy Book scheme, which is incorporated into their teachers’ contracts of employment. In some local authorities, local agreements improve upon the Burgundy Book scheme.”

Teachers also want to know for how long can a teacher be off sick?

Here, we talk about the Burgundy Book entitlements.

But what are the Burgundy Book entitlements? The sick pay entitlements for teachers are set out in the Burgundy Book as follows:

  • During the first year of service: entitled to full payment of 25 working days and, after completing 4 calendar month’s service, half pay for 50 working days.
  • During the second year of service: entitled to full payment for 50 working days and a half pay for 50 working days.
  • During the third year of service: entitled to full payment for 75 working days and a half pay for 75 working days.
  • During the fourth and successive years: entitled to full payment for 100 working days and a half pay for 100 working days.

However, this sick leave condition is a min, and employers can extend it in any individual case at their discretion.

What happens if I work part-time?

If you are a teacher that works part-time, you are still entitled to receive sick pay based on your actual salary up to 100 of the school’s working days, not your individual teacher’s working days.

Let’s consider the following example. If you are employed on a 0.4 contract you would receive your normal 0.4 salaries for 100 school working days and 50% of your 0.4 salaries for a further 100 working days.

Year of service, when does it begin?

According to the NEU, “The sick leave year normally runs from 1 April to 31 March, and a new entitlement starts each year on 1 April. However, teachers absent due to illness on 31 March will not be entitled to the subsequent year’s allowance until they are recovered and are back at work. Instead, sick leave will continue to be counted against the previous year’s entitlement.”

Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick in the UK?

What to do if I am ill?

You should be aware of the policy regarding sickness absence, but most schools or colleges will require you to contact them by a certain time during the morning of the absence and they may also indicate who to contact.

It is recommended to contact the school yourself but if you have a special circumstance or you are not able to phone, you can ask someone else to do it for you.

However, if you decide to call late or don’t call at all (unauthorized absence). You may be required to explain the circumstances around this situation.

Always attempt to contact your employer to avoid any disciplinary actions against you or the loss of pay.

If you are too unwell to go to work, you can self-certify without having to ask for a medical certificate if you have been absent less than 8 calendar days.

However, you may need a medical certificate after 8 days with advice on how to support your return to work, any advice, or modifications to your workplace.

Occupational health (OH) referral

Depending on your circumstances, your employer may refer you to an occupational health professional. As the policy indicates:

  • the objective of OH is to protect and promote employees’ health and wellbeing, including the likelihood of a successful return to work;
  • the employer (or appropriately trained designated person) may refer an employee to an OH advisor for an OH consultation;
  • the employer will meet all costs associated with any examination undertaken by the OH service and/or
  • the release of the employee’s medical report, should the employee agree to such a request;
  • the employee will have the right to give their written permission for OH to request a medical report from the employee’s doctor. 
Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick in the UK?

What if I suffer from a mental health illness?

The policy from the NASUWT Teachers Union confirms that:

  • employees experiencing mental health problems will have a right to workplace adjustments and phased returns, together with occupational health support;
  • employers have a clear and agreed process in place for employees to raise mental health problems and take positive action promptly when employees seek help;
  • managers will be appropriately trained to support individuals regarding mental health problems. 

Reasons you can be dismissed

There are some situations that can be considered as fair dismissals if your employer considers they need to let you go. 

  • Not being able to do your job properly: this could happen if you haven’t been able to adapt or keep up with important changes to your job such as a new computer system. Also, it could happen that you don’t get along with your colleagues. However, your employer should follow a disciplinary procedure before taking any action.
  • Illness: if you have persistently ill or on a long-term illness absence, your employer could indicate how your illness makes it impossible for you to perform your job. However, before taking any action they should look for reasonable ways to support you and give you some time to recover from your illness. In contrast, if you have a disability, dismissing you may be considered as unlawful discrimination.
Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick in the UK?
  • Redundancy:  this can happen when your employer needs to reduce their workforce/personnel.
  • Summary dismissal: gross misconduct is another reason that is valid when dismissing an employee. However, your employer should always open an investigation before proceeding with the dismissal.
  • When it is impossible to carry on employing you due to extenuating/special circumstances.
  • A ‘substantial reason’ such as being sent to prison.
  • A ‘statutory restriction’: your employer can dismiss you if by continuing your employment they are breaking the law.

Unfair dismissal

If you have been employed for two years, you are protected against unfair dismissal.

It will be considered unfair unless your employer is able to show that:

  • There was a potentially fair reason to be dismissed
  • They acted reasonably in the circumstances
  • They followed the fair procedure before dismissing you

However, if you haven’t been employed for two years or more, you may still be protected by disability discrimination law.

According to Ben Power from Spring House Solicitors, “If your absence is related to an illness which means you are considered by the law to be disabled, then a dismissal due to your sickness absence may be discriminatory. A person is regarded as disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”

Why is this blog about Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick UK important?

As a teacher, we discussed how the Burgundy Book national agreement on conditions of service will provide important information in regards to sick pay entitlement and other additional useful and necessary information.

Moreover, you have the right to know if being sacked for being sick in the UK is possible or not and how you may be entitled to statutory sick pay Employment laws can protect employees against unfair dismissal and discrimination.

However, consider that your employer needs to exhaust all the options first before they can decide to act and dismiss you for being on short or long-term sickness absence, they just simply can’t dismiss you without even warning you.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick UK

Can I be sacked for being off sick with a doctor’s note UK?

You can be sacked for being off sick if you have a persistent or long-term illness that doesn’t allow you to do your job.

However, before your employer considers terminating your employment, they should look for possible ways to support you by making reasonable adjustments.

How long can a teacher be off sick?

A teacher can be off sick, according to the Teacher’s national sick pay entitlements, during the first year of service: full pay for 25 working days and after completing 4 calendar month’s service, half pay for 50 working days.

Can I be sacked while on the sick?

Yes, you can be sacked while off sick if you are persistently off due to illness or you have a long-term sickness.

However, your employer should look for alternatives before they dismiss you.

For instance, if your work is the one making you ill then it needs to be changed.

Can teachers call in sick?

Teachers can call in sick and self-certify any period of sickness absence between 4 to 7 calendar days.

A fit note (or a doctor’s certificate) will be required for absences lasting more than 7 calendar days.

How many sick days per year is acceptable UK?

It is said that employees in the UK take around 6.9 sick days per year in the UK.

However, you can have a short or long-term illness, where the number of days will be determined by your GP and they can even keep extending it if needed.

References 

Neu.org.uk: “Teachers’ sick pay and sick leave entitlement”

Nasuwt.org.uk: “Managing Sickness Absence NASUWT checklist” Click here.

Gov.co.uk: “Dismissal: your rights”

Power, B. (2019, Aug.) Can you be sacked for being off sick?. Retrieved from springhouselaw.com.

Daniela Paez

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.