Covid-19: Temporary changes to statutory sick pay rules

As of last Friday (17th December 2021), new temporary rules, which provide an extension to self-certification time periods for statutory sick pay (“SSP”) purposes, are in place.

Prior to 17th December 2021, employees were able to self-certify their absence for 7 days and were then required to obtain a GP fit note for absences longer than 7 days for SSP eligibility.

However, the new rules mean employees can now self-certify absences of up to 28 days without obtaining a fit note and only require evidence for absences exceeding this time. This applies to any sickness absence which:

  • began on or after 10th December 2021 and is ongoing; or
  • starts during the period 17th December 2021 to 26th January 2022.

The changes will cease to apply on or after 27th January 2022, at which point the previous rules will return.

This change has been introduced in order to reduce the need for GP appointments and increase their capacity to support the Covid booster vaccination programme.

Whilst the new changes may be open to abuse by employees due to lack of regulation, any issues should be short-lived as the changes currently only apply until 26th January 2022.

The current temporary nature of the changes mean that employers won’t need to amend their sickness absence policies, but if the changes are extended then it might be a consideration for the future. However, employers will need to inform employees of the new rules. Whilst the timing of notification is at the employer’s discretion, it may be wise to do this when an employee reports in sick.

It is also important to note that the changes do not affect any enhanced sick pay entitlement. Here, employers can still follow their own policies in relation to eligibility as this remains unaffected by the changes. However, employers may want to consider aligning their company policies with the changes to show a willingness to support the implementations.

You can find the legislation by clicking here.

If you would like any further information in relation to this topic, please contact a member of the Employment team.

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