It was announced on Friday (17h December) that the Government is making a temporary change to the rules around self-certification periods and sickness.
Presently employees can self-certificate for 7 days before needing a Fit (sick) Note, for any employees who have been off sick since the 10th of December, this period has now been extended to 28 days without needing a Fit Note from a GP or other proof of ill health.
This change has been slated to last until 26th January 2022 and is in response to the high pressure on GP’s due to the vaccine roll-out.
All other rules relating to statutory sick pay and holidays accruing whilst off sick remain as per normal.
In practical terms this means that employers will be required to take their employees word that they are absent due to ill health and will be unable to request any further evidence until 28 days absence has passed. The only exception is when an employee states that the absence is due to covid and so you may request evidence of a positive test or request to isolate.
At face value there may be some concerns that this extension may incentivise additional absence through the lack of a need to obtain proof of ill health, but the effects of this are likely to be reduced if the employee only qualifies for SSP. For those employees that qualify for Company or enhanced Sick Pay then there is a risk that this extension to 28 days could incentivise a slower return to work.
At this stage there is no formal need to amend policies, but managers should be made aware of this change, and it may be wise to encourage managers to stay in touch with staff who go off on sick leave to monitor their potential return to work date.
For more info see https://www.gov.uk/taking-sick-leave