[UK] Temporary statutory sick pay rules allow self-certification for 28 days absence

[UK] Temporary statutory sick pay rules allow self-certification for 28 days absence
22 Dec 2021

To relieve pressure on the NHS, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) changes that came into force on December 17 will allow employees to self-certify absence for up to 28 days. Ordinarily, employees can only self-certify absence for the first seven days. Clyde & Co offers key information about this temporary measure.

Employees who are eligible to receive SSP are not usually required to provide their employer with medical evidence to support their sickness absence (or other incapacity for work) for the first seven days of absence. For longer periods of absence, they must obtain medical evidence from their GP (by way of a fit note).

As a temporary measure intended to free up GP capacity to focus on the COVID vaccine booster programme and emergency care, employees will not be required to provide their employer with medical evidence of sickness absence for the first 28 days of absence. GPs will still be required to supply fit notes for periods of absence exceeding 28 days.

This change took effect from December 17 but applies to spells of incapacity for work which either:

* start during the period December 17 to January 26, 2022, or

* began before 17 December but which have not lasted more than seven days on that date (and so in relation to which the requirement to provide medical evidence has not yet arisen).

The new rules apply to England, Wales and Scotland.

The changes mean that:

* individuals who go off sick on or after December 10, up to and including January 26, 2022, are not required to give proof of sickness for SSP purposes until they’ve been off for 28 days or more

* those who started their sick leave before December 10, 2021, must continue to provide fit notes when they are off work for more than seven days in a row (including non-working days) and obtain further fit notes when their existing ones expire

* the self-certification period will go back to seven days for absences beginning on or after January 27, 2022 (unless these rules are extended)

The government has updated its guidance note on SSP.

Do these changes mean employers cannot ask for proof that an employee is off sick or self-isolating?

No, the changes only reportedly relate to SSP entitlement. An employer can still ask their employee to self-certify that they are sick or are self-isolating due to COVID-19. There is commonly a requirement contained in the contract of employment or the employer’s staff handbook that the employee must notify their employer immediately of any sickness absence and provide evidence as required by the employer’s sickness policy.

There is also currently an online service available for employees who have been advised to self-isolate because of coronavirus to obtain an online isolation note. Employees can use this service to provide their employer with evidence of the need to self-isolate, without having to contact their GP. For those who have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, their notification is proof.

When are employees entitled to SSP if they are self- isolating in line with government advice?

Employees must be paid SSP if they cannot work because they're self-isolating under government guidance for any of the following reasons:

* they have coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive

* someone in their household has symptoms or has tested positive

* they are told to self-isolate by an NHS test and trace service

* they have been advised by their doctor to stay at home before going into hospital for surgery

To be eligible for SSP, an employee must be off work for at least four consecutive days, including any of their usual non-working days.

They are entitled to be paid at least SSP for every day they are off work. This is different to the usual rules for SSP where the first three days are unpaid.

Employers might also offer more than SSP in the form of ‘contractual' sick pay.

Employees are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are self-isolating or quarantining after travel abroad and they cannot work from home. However, an employer can choose to pay them sick pay - at the same rate as SSP or a higher rate - if they want to.

The current rules and guidance regarding self-isolation are under constant review and have changed recently. The rules are also different across England, Scotland and Wales. For the up to date position, consult the relevant guidance:

England - NHS Test and Trace in the workplace - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Scotland - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Test and Protect - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Wales - Self-isolation


Can SSP be reclaimed for COVID-19 related absence?

Until September 30, 2021, employers with less than 250 employees could reclaim any COVID-19 related SSP paid to employees for the first two weeks of absence. This scheme has now ended and SSP can no longer be reclaimed.

Further information on these SSP regulations is available here.

Source: Clyde & Co

(Links via original reporting)

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