To support the booster vaccination efforts, emergency legislation is now in place changing how long an employee can self-certify their sickness absence for. The change applies from Friday 17th December 2021.
It has long been established that employees can self-certify their sickness absence for 7 days, after which they must provide medical evidence to confirm that they are not fit for work and so claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The new DWP and HMRC rules increases the self-certification period to 28 days.
This change applies to all sickness absences which began on or after 10 December 2021. The self-certification period will revert to seven days for absences beginning on or after 27 January 2022.
The aim of the legislation is to allow GP capacity to be increased to maximise support for the coronavirus vaccination booster rollout across the UK.
The temporary Regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland.
What do employers need to know?
Asking for a statement of fitness for work and managing absence
- The length of time before an employer can require a statement of fitness for work is the only thing to have changed and will revert to the normal period from 27th January.
- Penalising staff for not providing a sick note before 28 days may have significant risks, the worst being claims such as discrimination arising from a disability and unfair dismissal.
- Employers should continue to manage absence as they usually would i.e., they may still require an employee to follow their absence reporting procedures.
- Employers may also continue to conduct welfare meetings with employees within that 28-day period if appropriate.
- The legislation does not prohibit medical reports or occupational health reports from being requested and should not have any impact on beginning or continuing with a fair medical capability process.
Company sick pay policy
Employers who operate a company sick pay scheme (offering pay above the minimum SSP) should continue to run the scheme normally. Some will temporarily vary their policy, such as postponing enhanced payments until a statement of fitness is received after 28 days of absence.
False reporting of absence
In situations where an employer has a genuine concern someone is not genuinely ill, they may consider writing to the individual to forewarn them that the false reporting of absence and claiming of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is fraudulent and will be treated as a gross misconduct offence which, if upheld, can result in summary dismissal without notice.
18th December 2021