Do you have entitlement to contractual sick pay or will it be statutory sick pay only?
When you are off sick, firstly check your contractual / statutory entitlements with your employer. If possible, try to get dates of when any sick pay or entitlements will end.
If you are off sick and employed, you're likely to have entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for 28 weeks from your fourth day of sickness.
Staff who are employed by an agency or nursing bank are eligible for SSP providing that recent work meets the levels of earnings required to claim SSP. Further details on eligibility can be found here.
If you have entitlement to ‘full’ contractual pay, your employer will use the SSP as a component part of your full pay.
If you are on reduced contractual pay and still within the 28 week qualifying period, you will need to check if they will use the SSP as a component part of your reduced pay or if they will pay it on top of your reduced pay.
If you are on nil contractual pay, SSP will be the only payment you will receive from your employer, but you may also be entitled to benefits such as Universal Credit.
Check your benefit entitlement
If you are not employed, or your pay is reducing, check for possible benefit entitlement.
There is no set level of income needed to claim benefits – your entitlement will depend on a number of things such as whether you have dependent children, whether you’re liable to pay rent, and who else lives in your household.
What happens when my SSP runs out?
If you are still signed unfit to work by a GP when SSP runs out following 28 weeks of payment, or you don't qualify for SSP for another reason, you may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) even if you're still getting half pay.
New Style Employment and Support Allowance is based on your national insurance contribution record over the last 2 – 3 years. The only income that can affect payment of New Style ESA is pension income but it would be dependent on the amount of pension you receive. You can receive New Style ESA along with your half pay.
If you’re employed, in order to apply for ESA you will need a form from your employer called SSP1 to confirm the date your SSP is due to end. You can apply for ESA up to 3 months in advance if you have your SSP1 form, or up to 3 months backdated if your SSP has already stopped.
More information on Employment and Support Allowance including the online application form can be found on the government's website here.
You can claim other benefits such as Universal Credit at the same time as ESA if you meet the eligibility criteria. Check your entitlement using a benefit calculator such as Policy in Practice or Entitled To, or speak to a benefit adviser.
If you receive Universal Credit, your ESA income will be deducted in full from your Universal Credit award. We’d still advise you to apply for ESA if you meet the eligibility criteria. If you have both ESA and Universal Credit in place, you may still receive your ESA income if your Universal Credit stops for reasons such as an unexpected payment from your employer, so it’s best to claim them both if you can.
Could you claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?
Personal Independence Payment provides an extra income to assist in meeting some of the extra costs of living with a disability or long term health condition.
You are able to claim the benefit whether you are in or out of work as it is non means tested and is awarded on the basis of your ability to manage the tasks of everyday living. Qualification will depend on the extent to which your condition affects you.
More information on Personal Independence Payment can be found here.
Facing the possibility of ill health retirement?
The RCN has advice on the NHS ill health retirement application and appeal process. If you suffer from permanent ill health that affects your employment you may be facing the possibility of having to consider ill health retirement. The guide gives advice for before, during and after the application process.
Non-members can access a fact sheet on ill health retirement on the NHS Business Services Authority website.
For other pension schemes you will need to contact the scheme provider to establish the provisions and processes of that particular scheme.