I have recently been offered a more senior role by a company new to me in the UK, for which I get a good salary increase, a great pension and much more interesting work. The role is IT/technical and non-managerial.

I am reviewing the contract and it seems that I would not get full sick pay (known as "contractual sick pay" in the UK) for two years, even though the probation will only be six months.

I've been working in my field for fifteen years and have never been asked to sign away this privilege. I am extremely healthy and rarely take days off sick, but I am aware that might change, and worry that this might be the thin edge of a sign-your-employee-rights-away wedge.

Thus, is two years of statutory sick pay (i.e. the legal minimum, currently around 85GBP/week) and company discretionary sick pay (criteria for "discretion" not stated) too long for the UK? Is two years so onerous as to be worth turning the opportunity down for? Does anyone know whether this is down to new legislation, or have companies in the UK always been able to do this?

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    In the UK getting any sick pay above the legal minimum is down to employers some people dont dont get anything other than statutory sick pay. Having said that 6 months is probably a more normal qualifying period than two years. Feb 15, 2014 at 20:41
  • I'm sure you're right, but has it been the norm for professional jobs? I've tended to stay for many years in my previous career roles, so perhaps I've just been lucky - the ones I've had in the past have never made deductions for illness.
    – squiggler
    Feb 15, 2014 at 22:54
  • I'm sure this can be answered with factual information. It depends if there's some research out there that can be cited. Let's see if anyone has any experience with this.
    – jmort253
    Feb 16, 2014 at 1:58

1 Answer 1


I'll share some answers found elsewhere, as they may be useful for others considering the same problem. Other thoughts still warmly welcomed, though.

Is two years so onerous as to be worth turning the opportunity down for?

To a degree this is a matter of opinion, so I'll offer a distillation of the answers I've gleaned so far.

The "yes" camp highlights that two years is a long period of time to be without income protection, and that it's an unpleasant legal expert's addition that most new employees will not question. It is too risky even for someone in excellent health.

The "no" camp suggests that well-paid or senior roles tend to come with these sorts of trade-offs: an increase in base pay and pension set against a small reduction in employment rights. (As has been pointed out in the comments, full sick pay is not a legal right in the UK. But my experience has been that it is so prevalent as to be normally expected. However, I don't know what other people's experience has been here, and as I say I may have just been lucky).

To manage the risk, it has been suggested that I obtain separate sickness insurance, which I suspect costs several hundred GBP per annum. Set against a much larger salary increase, this is affordable, but would probably only cover medically-certificated and long-term illnesses. Days with migraines, food poisoning and influenza (etc) are hard to prove, rarely are worth getting doctor's notes for, and as such are unlikely to be claimable. This, again, may be a trade-off worth tolerating.

It has been suggested that some sickness insurance does not cover full pay anyway, and will be subject to amount and time-period maximums.

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    Actually well paid or senior roles with bigger companies would tend to have contractual sick pay its the mc jobs and small /start-up companies that don't. Feb 16, 2014 at 14:34
  • @Neuromancer, thanks. This is a senior role with a small company, so a bit of both! It's been around for a few years, but I think they have a start-up culture even though they are not in a start-up phase. Tbf, most of my past employment has been with larger orgs so perhaps the company size is the primary determining factor here, and I should not be surprised at the inclusion of this clause.
    – squiggler
    Feb 16, 2014 at 14:48
  • It's understandable that for a smaller company the risk is higher. If they have four employees, and you get ill, then 25% of their employees are ill. On the other hand, having to live off £85 a week if you have an accident would be very tough. At the very least you should negotiate something halfway between statutory pay and full pay for the two years.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 18, 2015 at 23:42

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