It has been announced that between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 employers cannot ask employees to go to their doctor for proof of sickness until the absence has lasted for 28 days or more (the requirement to self-certificate remains in place for that time). It has also been made clear that SSP cannot be withheld due to late medical evidence.

This change is in light of the exceptional pressure placed on GPs in managing the government booster rollout.

This is a significant change from the usual requirement that requires a medical certificate to be provided after 7 days of absence, and will be difficult to manage for many employers.

Employers should be careful to make it clear to staff that this is a temporary change only, and not a permanent change to the sickness absence notification procedure.

Whilst employers cannot ask for proof of sickness for non-Covid related absences, it remains possible to ask for proof of a positive test or isolation request for those absences that are Covid related.

Employers may be concerned that employees will use this change to their advantage, and claim sickness for longer periods than necessary. If not already in place, it is highly recommended to have a thorough return to work process in which the sickness absence is discussed in detail and documented to assess for future patterns and possible evidence of inappropriate use of the sickness procedure.