Changes in sickness absence requirements

Employees who are off sick between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 can now self-certify their absence for 28-days. The measure has been introduced in order to allow GPs to focus on COVID-19 booster vaccinations.

The change to the current requirements to provide a fit note on the 8th day of absence applies to employees regardless of their medical condition (i.e. it does not need to be Covid-related) provided that they go off sick on or after 10 December 2021. There is no obligation for employers to publicise the changes to their workforce or amend their written policies for this temporary change.

The change is not likely to be welcomed by employers, many of whom will already have experienced employees who are reluctant to see their GP, particularly for mental health issues, or who will be concerned about disingenuous absences. Employers should continue to encourage employees to see their GP where they are concerned about their welfare and use methods such as ‘return to work’ interviews to reduce unnecessary absences.