COVID-19 Update – Self-Certification Period Extension

The UK Government recently implemented emergency legislation to reduce the pressure on GPs and to support the booster vaccination rollout following a surge of Omicron cases.

Under the Medical Evidence Regulations 1985, employees were expected to provide evidence of their incapacity to their employer, usually in the form of a Fit Note from their GP, after the seventh day of absence. Under the new regulations, the self-certification period has increased significantly.

What are the new regulations?

The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations (SI 2021/1453) came into force on the 17 December 2021 and modify the earlier Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 (SI 1985/1604) (Medical Evidence Regulations 1985).

From the 17 December 2021, an employer cannot request medical evidence from an employee who is absent from work due to sickness until they have been absent for 28 days or more. The new regulations apply to absences which began on or after the 10 December 2021 and will continue to apply up until the 26 January 2022. This is a significant increase from the usual self-certification period of 7 days, after which employees were expected to submit a Fit Note from their GP.

Are the new regulations permanent?

The new regulations have been implemented as a temporary measure to reduce the pressure on GP’s so that they can devote their time to the booster vaccination roll out across the country following the increase in omicron cases. The regulations will not apply to absences which begin after the 26 January 2022.

What does this mean for employers?

The new regulations are likely to be a cause for concern for many employers, with many being in their busiest period in the run up to Christmas and with many struggling with staffing levels already following the increase in omicron cases. Despite this, employers must ensure that they follow the regulations and avoid penalising employees for self-certifying their absence during this period. Employers will have concerns about false reporting, however we would suggest seeking advice before proceeding to investigate any concerns about employees falsely reporting their absence.

For further information about this matter, please contact one of the employment law team.

Amy Hallam
Head of Employment
01246 564012

Jessica Eyley
Trainee Legal Executive
01246 560587

Georgia Jeonney
Employment Paralegal
01246 564035

Ellie Leatherday
01246 555111