We've all woken up with a banging headache, blocked nose and nausea at some-point and while falling ill with flu or a cold can be hard to avoid, knowing how to tackle your illness and your rights to time off work can help you get back on the road to recovery.

How long does a flu or cold last for?

Flu: According the NHS website, you can expect to feel ill within a few days of becoming infected, with symptoms reaching the worst state after about 3 days. It can take about a week or so to recover fully from the flu, but every individual recovers differently.

Cold: The more common cold can hit almost anybody in the UK, but unlike the flu will usually last about a week, with symptoms throughout according to the NHS website.

Can you get paid time off work?

Knowing how long you'll be ill for gives you time to find out whether you can take time off in an emergency, and still get paid.

Statutory Sick Pay

If you earn an average weekly wage of 111 then you are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks of illness. The amount you'll be paid will be set at 87.55 a week; however your employment contract may offer you more.

You will only get SSP if you have been off sick for 4 days (including non-working days) and to qualify you will need to be classed as an employee, whether full time or part-time. To work out what statutory sick pay you're entitled to you can use the GOV.uk website calculator.

Many employers ask that you present a sick note from your doctor to confirm your illness if you are off work for more than 7 days in a row. Find out more on the GOV.uk website.

Part time workers & zero hour contracts

If you work part time or on a zero hour contract you may fall short of the average weekly earnings limit of 111. If this is the case you will not be entitled to any sick pay unless specified in your contract.

Agricultural Sick Pay

If you work in the agricultural industry, then your sick pay rights are adapted to pay you at least the Agricultural Minimum Wage. The rules on paying out also differ, with shorter term illnesses such as those that last for less than 14 days unlikely to be considered for payment. To find out more visit the GOV.uk website.


If you're self-employed you may find it difficult to take time off to recover depending on your working sector or industry. As your own employer you won't be eligible for statutory sick pay but might be entitled to employment and support allowance (ESA).

You can visit the GOV.uk website for further details on ESA. It's important to organise a contingency plan for unforeseen illnesses to help levy some of the pressure off you until you are fit enough to work again.

Paying your way through the pain

The cost of being ill doesn't stop at missing work, with the cost of medicine, tissues and other essentials all adding up over time.

This means you'll want to find the cheapest, effective ways to cure you of your wintry illness as soon as possible.

Do you pay extra for a brand name?

Once a drugs' patent expires any manufacturer can make and sell the drug, creating greater competition and cheaper prices. This is the reason why you see so many different boxes and manufacturers of drugs such as Ibuprofen and Paracetamol in the shops.

Though prices can vary considerably between branded and non-branded named medication the quality should be more or less the same. Here is a non-branded versus branded price comparison list of the most common cold and flu drugs and medication:


Product Non-branded cost Branded costYou Could Save
Ibuprofen (16 Tablets) 0.35 3.79 3.44
Paracetamol (16 Tablets) 0.25 1.48 1.23
Aspirin (16 Tablets) 0.40 1.99 1.59
Decongestant (12 Tablets) 2.99 3.29 0.30
Zinc Supplement (120 Tablets) 5.98 9.05 3.07
Tissues 1.89 2.09 0.20
Nasal Spray 2.99 4.49 1.50
Chicken Soup (1 Tin) 0.25 1.15 0.90
Total Cost 15.10 27.33 12.23


Prescribed medicationCost
RelenzaNHS Prescription - from 8.05 for 30mg capsules
TamifluNHS Prescription - from 8.05 for 5mg inhaler

A full list of flu medication can be found on the NHS website.

Prices correct as of December, 2014

You can learn more about the differences between brand name and generic named medication on the NHS website.

Fight against colds and the flu

You can adopt and accept many changes into your life to help prevent an illness, or keep you prepared to fight back as best as possible. We look at a few suggestions for you this winter:

Flu vaccination: The NHS provides a flu jab that helps protect you against the flu. Though it is not 100% effective, it is a great form of defence over the winter months.

To qualify for the free jab you must be either 65 years and over, a pregnant woman, a child or adult with underlying health conditions or weakened immune system. Find out more about the flu vaccination on the NHS website.

If you don't qualify for the free flu jab then you can still pay for one at many popular pharmacies such as Superdrug, Morrisons, Boots Pharmacy and Lloyds Pharmacy with prices ranging between 8 and 12.99.

Staying healthy: Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet which gives your body all the nutrients it needs can be a great defence against seasonal illnesses. Make sure to get a good mix of vitamins and nutrients in your diet and don't hold back on drinking plenty of water all year round.

Stocking up on medicine /tissues: Have you ever picked up an illness or started with the sniffles, only to find that you don't have the right pills in the cupboard or enough tissues to last the night?

Staying stocked up on your medicinal necessities can help you tackle a virus quicker than letting it develop in your body without any form of defence.

Keeping your home warm: The cost of your heating bills has continued to grow and grow, but don't let that force you to keep your heating off when you really need the warmth. If you are worried about the cost of your heating bills the use our duel fuel comparison table to find a cheaper option to keep your home warm this winter.

What if your child is sick?

If your child falls ill suddenly and you need to take them to the doctors, your employer should let you leave but doesn't have to pay you for any time taken off.

The time you take off to organise any care arrangements is included within this time, and if you need to stay home to care for your dependant then you may be asked to take annual leave or parental leave. To understand your parental and guardian rights you can visit the GOV.uk website.

Planning financially for a cold or flu

If you or one of your dependants are hit with an illness such as a cold or the flu then having a bit of spare cash saved up. The saved cash can help pay for the costs of day to day living as well as any medication, food and drink you may need to help with a recovery.

Putting a little away each month for such an eventuality can take the pressure off you, especially if you don't qualify for any sick pay. You can use our savings account comparison table to find an account suitable for your budget.