As the NHS focuses on offering booster vaccines to as many people as possible, the Government has quietly made a temporary but significant change to the operation of statutory sick pay. For sickness absences beginning between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022, employees will be able to self-certify their absence if it lasts up to 28 days, rather than the usual 7 days.
This is a substantial change (and its operation may be prolonged if the NHS needs more time to administer booster vaccines). Employers should ensure that their HR and payroll processes are adjusted to take this change into account.
Although most employment contracts stipulate that a fitness to work certificate must be obtained after 7 days of absence, if GPs are refusing to offer appointments until absences have lasted for 28 days, employers may have little option but to accept self-certification for contractual as well as statutory sick pay purposes, unless they insist on further medical evidence (which itself may be difficult for employees to obtain if the NHS is under pressure).