How long can a teacher be off sick?

In this guide, we will discuss “How long can a teacher be off sick”, sick pay scheme for teachers, what happens if you are working part-time, when does the year of service begin, what to do if you feel too sick to work, being dismissed if you are off sick, what is considered under the policy as short and long-term absence and some additional things to consider

How long can a teacher be off sick?

It is normal to ask yourself ‘How long can a teacher be off sick?’.

You may be sick because of the flu or a cold, which really represents a short-term absence but you could have been feeling sick due to stress and it could be a short or long-term absence. 

Subsequently, how long will depend on the laws and policies of every country.

For instance, as indicated ASTI which is Ireland’s main second-level teacher’s union, “A teacher who is absent from duty because of personal illness or injury may be granted paid ordinary sick leave as follows: A maximum of three months (92 days) fully paid in a year.”

Just as in the UK, teachers are entitled to self-certify (7 days) and certified sick leave.

However, they make the distinction between a certified sick leave that could be classed as “ordinary illness” leave and “critical illness” leave, where the first is any illness which is not regarded as critical and the second would be a serious illness or physical injury which becomes debilitating for the teacher.

Teachers, just as in any other profession, may need some time off work to take sick leave.

Let’s consider some of the details regarding sick leave entitlements for teachers in the UK.

Teachers also ask if they can be sacked for being off sick in UK? To know the answer, you can read our blog on it.

Sick pay scheme for teachers

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.”

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.”

What to do if I am too sick to work?

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.

Can I be dismissed for being off sick?

You should not be dismissed for being off sick. Moreover, the sickness absence policy states the following:

“….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.”

Also, if you have been absent arising from medical appointments or disability-related absence will be paid and should not be considered under the management of sickness absence policy.

Short-term and long-term absence

According to the NASUWT, the policy will include a clear procedure for dealing with frequent short-term absence, which will provide:

  • a definition of short-term absence (e.g. three separate periods of short-term absence per term);.
  • medical referral (e.g. occupational health) where further medical information may be required.

In contrast, the long-term absence policy will include a clear procedure for dealing with LT absence:

  • an agreed definition of long-term absence (e.g. two weeks or more);
  • provisions for regular contact between the workplace and the employee, through a trade union representative;
  • occupational health (OH) referral and regular follow-up referrals, unless the absence is clearly time-limited (e.g. recuperation from surgery, or absence due to broken limbs);
  • a statement that warnings will not be given to employees on a long-term absence;
  • a statement that where the prognosis/OH report indicates no prospect of a return to work, this will be discussed with the individual and their trade union;
  • a commitment to provide medical interventions (e.g. cognitive behaviour therapy) where appropriate;
  • a statement that employees on long-term sick leave who are not terminally ill will not normally be dismissed unless all efforts to support return have failed and OH reports indicate there is no prospect of a return to work, or no realistic prospect of ill-health retirement;
  • a statement that ill-health retirement will be explored where appropriate. 

Informal review meetings

The policy indicates that at least 2 informal meetings have been conducted before any formal meeting, where the purpose is to investigate your absences and to offer support.

Also, informal review meetings will only be conducted where attendance becomes a concern and will only explore the reasons for the absence(s) and the support you may need.

The informal meetings will be conducted confidentially by a trained manager.

Why is this blog about How long can a teacher be off sick important?

As we have discussed, how long a teacher can be off sick will actually depend on the laws and policies of the country.

For some countries, you will need to have some available days you could be off sick in order for you to get paid.

In the case of the UK, we have seen how policies around sick absence stipulate a certain amount of days but employers can actually extend it at their discretion.

Moreover, consider how your employer can’t just dismiss you without a warning or attempting to make changes/adjustments to your work environment to ensure your health and wellbeing.

If they actually do, depending on the circumstances it can be considered as unfair dismissal.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How long can a teacher be off sick

Can a teacher be sacked for being off sick?

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.

If you are dismissed without any warning or attempt to make reasonable adjustments, it can be considered as unfair dismissal.

How many days can a teacher be absent?

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.

However, there could be more days according to your days of service.

What happens when a teacher runs out of sick days?

For instance in California, in the US, teachers who run out of sick days and remain out due to an illness or accident would be deducted from their salary to cover the payment of a substitute teacher.

However, in the UK teachers may be entitled to receive SSP for the full 28 weeks.

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.

Can a teacher be fired for absences?

A teacher can be fired for frequent unjustifiable absences or their employer may decide to terminate the contract due to long-term illness and because he/she is not able to perform their job anymore. 

References “Sick Leave Scheme – Circular Letter 0054/2019 – Chapter 1” “Teachers’ sick pay and sick leave entitlement” “Managing sickness absence NASUWT checklist”. Click here.