Temporary change to fit note requirements for employers

New regulations in force from 17 December 2021 provide that, for statutory sick pay (SSP) purposes, an employer cannot require proof of sickness via a fit note from a GP until an employee has been off work unwell for 28 days or more. This is currently for any employee off sick on or after 10 December 2021 and will cover both sickness absences up to and including 26 January 2022 and those which are ongoing having commenced prior to 26 January 2022. Previously, before they were obliged to pay SSP, employers could require that evidence after 7 days. The new regulations apply whether the ill health absence from work is COVID-19 connected or not.

This is to increase GP capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme by reducing the need for employees to obtain medical evidence from their GP for the purposes of SSP.

This change applies in each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Employers should consider their approach to the requirements they currently impose before they pay the likely more generous contractual sick pay. Will they relax temporarily their current contractual sick pay evidence requirements for all illnesses or for COVID-19 ill health? 

The new rules do not cover whether, for SSP purposes only, employers can require evidence of a positive lateral flow or PCR test from employees absent from work due to COVID-19 ill health.

However, they won’t impact safe workplace requirements by employers requiring COVID-19 test results. 

Many employers’ December payroll deadlines will have passed before these new regulations came into force. So employers should review SSP paid for non medically-evidenced ill health on and after 10 December 2021 to ensure they have met their SSP obligations and there is no underpayment of wages. Employers should also prepare now for their January payroll deadlines and be aware this may continue to impact in February 2022 to ensure they are meeting the changed SSP requirements.

If you have any queries or need further information, please contact Carolyn Brown.