Changes to rules on fit notes and self-isolation

*Correct as of 6 January 2022

Wishing a Happy New Year to all of our clients.

Below, we have outlined some updates to be aware of in respect of changes to rules on fit notes which occurred over the festive period in case these passed you by.

Fit notes – employees can temporarily self-certify absence for up to 28 days for SSP purposes

On 16 December 2021, the Government amended SSP regulations meaning that employees can, in order to prove sickness for statutory sick pay purposes, self-certify their absence for up to 28 days of sickness (where they could previously only self certify for sickness up to 7 days).

This has been brought in as a temporary measure (to reduce the pressure on GPs) and currently only applies for periods of sickness which commenced, or commence, between 17 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 (or started before 17 December but had not lasted more than 7 days by 17 December 2021). There has been some speculation that the rules could be extended beyond the current end date of 26 January 2022.

If you offer enhanced Company Sick Pay that also relies on fit note certification, you will need to consider the wording of your Company Sick Pay clauses or policies in order to understand the options available to you and how you wish to manage certification for enhanced contractual pay purposes (understanding that it may be difficult for an employee to obtain a fit note and GPs may seek to charge for it where they are able to provide one during the period that these amended regulations apply).  

The Government has also temporarily made it possible for small and medium-sized employers (i.e. with less than 250 employees on 30 November 2021) to once again claim refunds of SSP paid to employees for covid-related absences from 21 December 2021 (subject to a maximum of 2 weeks per employee).

Self isolation

The Government amended self-isolation requirements (for those with coronavirus). Employees in all parts of the UK can now stop self-isolating after 7 days (instead of 10) if they test negative on lateral flow tests consecutively on day 6 and 7.

Eligible employee who are legally required to self-isolate because of Covid are entitled to SSP. The Government changed the rules on self isolation because the UK Health and Security Agency advised that a 7-day isolation period alongside 2 negative lateral flow tests for people who had Covid has nearly the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period without negative lateral flow tests. However, employees leaving self-isolation after 7 days are strongly advised to:

  • Limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces
  • Work from home where possible
  • Minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness

Your risk assessments should therefore seek to factor in amended duties and/or additional PPE and/or additional testing as appropriate for those employees who are able to leave isolation on or after day 7 but who cannot work from home. Employees who had Covid but gained appropriate negative lateral flow tests on days 6 and 7 would no longer qualify for SSP, so if you wanted them to remain away from work for longer (owing to health and safety concerns e.g. for vulnerable employees) this would need to be on the basis of (fully paid) medical suspension.

If you'd like to discuss further please get in touch with one of our experts below.

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