sick pay freelancers

Self Employed Freelancers and Sick Pay: What You Need to Know

While freelancing affords millions of people a flexible lifestyle, it does come with its drawbacks. Amongst them is the financial difficulties that a sickness can present. So let’s talk about sick pay, freelancers, what you can and can’t claim.

Can Freelancers Get Sick Pay?


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But if you’re a freelancer who operates as a sole trader then you will not be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay.

That, along with a lack of paid annual leave, is probably amongst the main disadvantages for freelancers over those who are employed.

That’s not to say that there’s no help at all for freelancers. Indeed, self employed people can claim the somewhat less-talked-about Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Employment Support Allowance Eligibility

The eligibility criteria for Employment Support Allowance is as follows:

  • You must be under State Pension Age
  • You must have an illness or health condition that is affecting your ability to work
  • You cannot claim ESA if you are in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • You cannot claim ESA if you are in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay
  • You will need to have a complete National Insurance Record for the past 2 years (whether that is from employment, self employment or National Insurance Credits doesn’t matter)

How Much is ESA?

The standard payment is £74.35 per week (lower for those under 25).

It’s not much, is it? And if you have more than £6,000 in savings, your payments are likely to be affected (negatively) too.

The average monthly mortgage repayment in the UK is £154.90 a week according to the ONS. So clearly, with other costs as well, even the freelancers living a relatively modest lifestyle are likely to struggle.

So What Can Freelancers do if they’re Sick?

Unfortunately, freelancers and other types of sole traders are left a little high and dry by the Government on the sick pay front. So it’s sensible practice to have your own “just in case” measures in place.

  • Build a rainy day fund. If you’re unable to work for a short period of time, hopefully you can put yourself in a position where you can live off savings in the short term
  • Look at Income Protection Insurance or other similar cover that can pay you an income over a period of time when illness or injury renders you unable to work
  • External help: is there someone who can pick up some work for you so you are still able to bill? Having an arrangement with another contractor where you are both one another’s “back up” (taking a cut of the fee for the work) could be a way to ensure you can continue to earn some money even if you’re not able to deliver the work entirely yourself.

Advice for Self Employed Unable to Work

If you are self employed and find yourself unable to work due to sickness or injury, you can find more advice on Employment Support Allowance here.


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