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Emergency legislation to increase self-certification period for sickness

View profile for Paul Burton
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Emergency legislation to increase self-certification period for sickness

As part of the Government’s effort to free up GPs to provide booster vaccinations for Covid-19, new temporary legislation was passed on 16 December to increase the period of time that a worker can self-certify when they off work sick.

Many people may have missed this news, as it was strangely under-reported. 

What is self-certification of sick leave?

Self-certification is when an employee is able to confirm that they have been on sick leave themselves, without the need of proof from a medical professional (such as a doctor’s note).

The period for self-certification has been, for many years, seven days. 

What are the Statutory Sick Pay Regulations 2021?

The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 temporarily increases the period of self-certification up to 28 days.

This means workers are only required to provide medical evidence, a ‘fit-note’, for sickness absences over 28 days.

However, the legislation currently only applies for sickness periods that either start between 17 December 2021 to 26 January 2022 or commenced prior to 17 December, but which had not lasted more than seven days on 17 December.

What do the temporary regulations mean for employers?

Paul Burton, Employment Partner at Frettens, said: “This piece of legislation slipped under the radar for many, but it is a very important temporary law. 

Many employers will not like it, as it will mean their staff can be off work sick for virtually a month before they have to obtain a medical certificate from their doctor.

However, the government has seen this as less important than GPs being freed up by seeing less patients looking for fit-notes in order to administer booster vaccinations for Covid.”

Do employers need to update their sickness policies?

Paul continues: “I believe it is likely, given the current high cases of Covid, that the legislation could be extended past 26 January 2022 and therefore employers will need to adapt their sickness policies to account for the increased period of self-certification.”

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