Navigating the complexities of HR management, particularly in relation to managing sickness absence, is an essential task for people teams. This article provides a detailed guide on the intricacies of self-certification for sickness, encompassing legal requirements, policy changes, implications for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and the employer's role in the process. With this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to manage sickness self-certification in your organisation, thus contributing towards improved employee well-being and reduced staff turnover.
What is self-certification?
Self-certification is a procedure where an individual asserts that certain information they provide such as their health status or professional credentials is true and correct. Widely utilised across various sectors including commercial driving and media content creation, self-certification removes the need for external verification, instead placing the onus on the individual or entity making the assertion.
When can employees use self-certification?
Self-certification comes into play when employees declare their illness or inability to work. Typically, after an employee has been absent due to sickness, they may self-certify their absence for the initial seven days. Beyond this period, a 'fit note' from a doctor is usually required. However, the specific duration for self-certification can vary depending on company policies or local labour regulations.
How long can employees self-certify?
In terms of when employees can use self-certification, it is typically used when employees return to work after a sickness absence. The prerogative of how the self-certification should be done lies with the employee and employer, usually it involves email or filling a form.
Can you self-certify for more than seven days in a row?
Generally, an employee can self-certify if they are sick or unwell on their own for no more than seven days. If they have been away from the office for more than a week, a ‘fit note’ or ‘sick note’ signed and approved by a medical professional is generally required.
However, it's worth noting that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government temporarily increased the self-certification period to 28 days. This means employees did not need a doctor's note for the first 28 days of sickness. It's always best to check the current government regulations and company policies regarding self-certification of illness.
How has self-certification changed?
In December 2021, the Government outlined changes to legislation 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:
Self-certification for sickness has changed quite drastically in the UK in recent years, particularly in the context of sickness absence. As mentioned before, organisations allow up to seven days of self-certification for any employee, post which a note from a healthcare professional becomes mandatory. However, in December 2021, the government temporarily extended this period, allowing employees to self-certify for up to 28 days.
This change was introduced in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and aimed to ease the pressure on healthcare services. It meant that instead of needing a 'fit note' from a doctor after seven days of sickness absence, employees could continue to self-certify their illness for up to four weeks. This change applied to periods of incapacity for work which started between 10th December 2021 and 26th January 2022.
However, this was a temporary measure, and the self-certification period reverted to seven days for absences beginning on or after 27th January 2022. As of today's date, organisations have reverted to the original model of allowing self-certification for seven days.
What does this mean for you?
Understandably, businesses and corporations need to recognise the impact of these changes and what the repercussions might be. 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.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and self-certification
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a statutory benefit in the United Kingdom that provides financial support to employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury. It is a legal requirement for employers to provide SSP to eligible employees. The amount and duration of SSP are set by the government. Self-certification is a process where employees can certify their absence from work due to illness or injury for up to seven days without the need for a medical certificate.
During this period, employees can self-certify by providing details of their illness or injury to their employer. Self-certification helps streamline the process and reduces the burden on both employees and employers in obtaining medical certificates for short-term absences. Employers should have a clear policy and process in place for self-certification to ensure accurate record-keeping and compliance with SSP regulations.
How much is SSP?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in the UK is £109.40 per week, as of April 2023, and it can be paid for up to 28 weeks.
Who pays SSP?
It's important to note that SSP is paid by the employer to the employee if they are too ill to work. The employee is eligible to receive SSP from the fourth day they're off sick.
Managing self-certification during sick leave
Managing self-certification during sick leave is an important aspect of human resource management. It involves ensuring that employees understand the process of self-certifying their sickness absence and adhere to the company's policies. Typically, an employee can self-certify for the first seven days of their illness without a doctor's note. After this period, a medical 'fit note' is usually required. Employers should communicate these rules clearly and consistently to all employees.
Additionally, they should have a system in place to track and record self-certified sick leaves to maintain accurate records. This will not only aid in the management of employee welfare but also ensure compliance with statutory requirements related to sick pay.
Communicate your sick leave policy
Communicating your sick leave policy effectively is crucial in maintaining a transparent and healthy work environment. A well-communicated policy ensures that all employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities when they are unwell, preventing misunderstandings and potential disputes. It outlines the procedures for reporting illness, the duration of self-certification, requirements for medical documentation, and details about statutory sick pay. This not only provides guidance to employees during challenging times but also helps employers manage absences more efficiently. Moreover, a clear and consistent sick leave policy can contribute to employee satisfaction and retention, reinforcing the company's commitment to employee welfare.
Where can you find self-certificate sickness forms for employees?
In the UK, employees can find a self-certification form from several sources:
- The UK government provides an Employee's Statement of Sickness form (SC2) to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which can be found on their website.
- Bright Contracts Documentation offers a Self-Certification Form sample document for employers.
- Mitcheldean Surgery provides a Self-Certification Sick / Fit Note for less than 7 days.
- Royal Holloway University provides a Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Employee's statement of sickness form on their intranet.
- College Road Surgery also offers a Self-Certification Sick / Fit Note for less than 7 days.
- Rocket Lawyer provides a platform to make a free Self-Certification Form.
- Peninsula UK gives advice on how to create your own Self-Certification Form.
- HM Revenue & Customs offers a Self-Certification Form SSP to be filled online.
Across the globe, several organisations tend to use their in-house self-certification forms. In case your organisation does not have a designated form, you can download a form from one of the above-mentioned links and submit it to your organisation.
Can you create a company self-certification form?
Yes, an organisation can create its own self-certification form. Every business is different with different policies and absence management strategies, therefore, having self-certification forms specific to the requirements and objectives of the organisation is crucial.
Some of the more common fields in a form include
- Employee's name
- Date of illness
- Expected date of return
- Brief description of the illness
- Employee self-attesting section
Coming up with a self-certification form can be quite tricky and requires input from several verticals. The form should be built in accordance with the latest local legislations.
When to ask for evidence?
In the context of sick leave, evidence such as a doctor's note, also known as a 'fit note,' is generally not required by employers for the first seven days of sickness in the UK. This period can be self-certified by the employee. However, if an employee is sick and off work for more than seven days, employers usually require some form of medical evidence to support payment of SSP (statutory sick pay). Employers may also ask for evidence from employees who have frequent short-term absences. It's important that employers communicate these requirements clearly in their sick leave policies.
Benefits of self-certification
Self-Certification has a host of benefits that help streamline processes, increase efficiency, and foster trust across verticals in an organisation. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Efficiency and speed: Self-certification allows businesses to speed up procedures and formalities, reducing transaction costs.
- Trust and autonomy: Self-certification promotes trust between employers and employees. It gives employees autonomy over their health decisions and shows that employers trust their staff to manage their own health responsibly.
- Simplification: Self-certification simplifies the process of managing sickness absences. A form can be used to document the absence and reason without needing additional paperwork from a healthcare provider.
- Tracking: Employers can use self-certification forms to track the number of sick days and the reasons for absences. This can provide valuable data for managing workforce health and productivity.
Use Advanced HR software to make self-certification easy
Advanced HR with self-service capabilities allow employees to log their sickness, streamlining the process and increasing efficiency. This feature provides a platform for employees to report their illness directly into the system without the need for manual paperwork or email communication.
The immediate update allows managers and HR departments to have real-time visibility of staff absences, which aids in planning and resource allocation.
Additionally, employees can fill out a digital self-certification form, detailing their reason for absence. This reduces administrative work and ensures that all necessary information is collected promptly.
These self-service capabilities offer further benefits for the employees. They can easily access their sick leave records, monitor their remaining sick leave allowance, and understand the company's sick leave policies better.
By digitising and automating the process, Advanced HR makes sickness reporting more accurate, faster, and user-friendly, benefiting both the organisation and its employees. Check out our HR software that makes core HR processes seamless.