With concerns around rising cases of the Omicron variant, as well as the arrival of the winter flu season, the rules around sickness absence certification for employees have recently changed. In an effort to combat mounting pressure on the NHS, employees who are off work for 28 days less, now no longer require a fit note or other proof of sickness from a healthcare professional prior to returning to the workplace.
The changes to legislation, effective as of the 10th December 2021 have been outlined by the government, with the most significant being around the extension to the self-certification period for employee illness (up from 7 days to 28.)
Changes to self-certification as per Gov.UK:
- If employees are off work for 28 days or less, they do not need to give their employer a 'fit note' or other proof of sickness from a medical professional.
- Employees must give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’ve been ill for more than 28 days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.
- If they started their sick leave before 10 December 2021, they must give proof if they’ve been off work for more than 7 days, including non-working days.
- As a reminder, if employees are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus (COVID-19) they can get an ‘isolation note’ online from NHS 111. They do not have to go to their GP or a hospital.
In summary, this means that as of the 17th December 2021, in order to meet statutory sick pay requirements, employees will not be required to give proof of sickness until they have been off for 28 days or more. This new legislation is slated to run until the 26th January 2022, barring any extensions to the measures.
What does this mean for you?
Understandably, organisations will want to understand the impact of these changes and how it may affect the way in which they handle sick leave internally. Fortunately, it seems as though these changes largely mean things are business as usual when it comes to day to day sickness absence, with the self-certification changes largely intended as a measure to reduce the admin burden on the NHS.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the extension of the self-certification period doesn’t exclude businesses from asking for proof from employees that they are self-certifying sickness or isolation with regards to coronavirus. It’s not uncommon for organisations to have a requirement folded into their contracts of employment, whereby the employee must notify their place of work immediately of any sickness absence and provide any relevant evidence. The new changes only pertain to self-certification and statutory sick pay entitlement, meaning you are still free to ask employees for proof of the need to self isolate.
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to find out more about what these changes in legislation mean for your business or would simply like a chat about how to best navigate through the challenges of SSP, self-certification and absence management, our team of friendly experts are always on hand- Get in touch today.