21st December 2021
The government has made a temporary change to the rules for Fit Notes. For sickness absences starting on or after 10 December 2021 which end on or before 26 January 2022, employees will be able to self-certify their sickness absence for up to 28 days for statutory sick pay (SSP) purposes. This 28 day self-certification period includes working days and non-working days. Previously, employees could only self-certify for 7 days before needing to provide a doctor’s Fit Note. The change is intended to provide temporary relief for GPs over the next few weeks while the Covid Booster programme is being rolled out but some commentators have suggested that this change may be extended in the new year.
If you only offer SSP to employees then the only change will be when an employee is required to provide a doctor’s Fit Note. If you offer company sick pay as well, you will need to consider how this change impacts your company sick pay policy. If your company sick pay policy requires employees to submit medical evidence after 7 days in order to continue to receive company sick pay, while you can retain this requirement, practically, it may be difficult for employees to obtain this evidence if their GPs are not issuing Fit Notes. You may want to consider temporarily deviating from the policy to match the 28 day SSP time frame or consider paying for employees to see a medical professional privately or referring the employee to occupational health. If you are considering refusing company sick pay to any employee we recommend that you take further advice as it could potentially raise discrimination issues.
For employees who are required to self-isolate for Covid, there is a separate system where they can obtain an Online Isolation Note.
You may have concerns about employees’ ability to self-certify in this way, particularly given existing extensive sickness absence due to Covid and Omicron in particular. If there are concerns about whether or not absence is genuine, we recommend that you seek legal advice before taking any action.