It’s important to plan for sudden unexpected circumstances, and sometimes this involves planning for the worst. This article will discuss what happens if you become unable to work due to illness, injury or disability and how you can plan your finances in these circumstances.
If you are off sick, you are entitled to paid sick leave. The amount you are paid depends on how long you have been in NHS service. Do note that this covers continuous service, with any gap over 12 months meaning you have to start building this allowance up again.
If you are unable to work you would be entitled to the following sick leave allowances:
- First year: one month’s full pay and (if you’ve completed four months of service) two months’ half pay.
- Second year: Two months’ full pay and two months’ half pay
- Third year: Four months’ full pay and four months’ half pay
- Fourth and fifth years: Five months’ full pay and five months’ half pay
- Sixth year and above: Six months’ full pay and six months’ half pay
Once your pay falls to half pay or below, you would be entitled to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as well. SSP is paid by your employer but covered by the government, and is payable for up to 28 weeks.
The current value for SSP in 2020-21 is £95.85 per week.
When SSP ends, you’ll be then eligible to apply for Universal Credit (UC) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you’re still too unwell to work.
How to claim sick pay
You will need to inform your payroll department that you are off sick, and provide evidence of your illness in the form of a GP “fit note”. Once this has been verified and you are eligible to claim for SSP, you should automatically begin to receive it in the same way you were receiving your salary.
Other financial considerations
If you are unable to work for a considerable time and your salary falls to half-pay or SSP, it can be difficult to reconcile your expenses to fall in line with your fall in income.
It’s extremely important that if this happens, you plan for your finances proactively to avoid falling into a debt trap later on.
You should consider the following:
- Talking to your bank, who might sometimes be able to provide assistance. These can include interest-free overdrafts, a holiday on mortgage or credit card payments, or short term loans or credit cards to cover a short period.
- Contacting your student loan agency. You should not be paying student loan while you are off sick, as student loans are only repayable when you are earning.
- Letting your landlord know, if you are renting. Some landlords or rental agencies may be willing to provide a holiday period in terms of payments, with the promise to repay later once you are working earning again.
Other considerations include making an effective budget and planning your expenses. You might find that some things can be reduced or omitted while you’re not working, such as membership subscriptions to gyms or expensive mobile phone plans.
Other utility providers and service providers are often willing to help people in temporarily difficult situations, so there’s never any harm in asking!
Friends and family may also be able to help with short term financial help – again it never hurts to ask.
Finally, some of the charitable organisations listed below can help with budgeting, planning your finances and can often provide short term loans or grants.
Tackling financial issues can be difficult if you’re focused on your health, so it’s really important you feel able to reach out to friends, family or other charitable agencies for help.
Other resources for help
CAB provides free advice to the public on a range of issues including benefits, employment and housing.
Stepchange offers free, confidential and impartial advice on debt management, online or over the phone.
Confidential 24/7 counselling and peer support services open to all doctors and medical students (regardless of BMA membership), plus their partners and dependents.
BMA Charities provides financial assistance for all medical students, doctors and refugee doctors, and can guide you to the right places to seek advice about your financial situation.
The Cameron Fund provides support to GPs and their families in times of financial need, whether through ill-health, disability, death or loss of employment.
The RMBF provides support for doctors and their families through all stages of their career and beyond. Their help includes:
- Regular monthly grants to help towards daily living costs
- Back to work awards to help with retraining, professional fees and childcare costs
- Financial advice
- “PhoneFriend” support for emotional support
- “DocHealth” for support for those experiencing mental health issues.
A medical benevolent charity which assists UK medical practitioners and their dependants who find themselves in financial hardship.