To give GP’s more time to work on the COVID-19 booster programme, on 17 December 2021 the Government announced changes to the time period for fit notes to be issued.
For Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), where employees off sick on or after 10 December 2021, employers can only ask employees for proof of sickness (such as a fit note) after 28 days of sickness (including non-working days). Proof of sickness cannot be requested earlier than 28 days.
This is currently a temporary measure and is for periods of sickness absence that commence on or before 26 January 2022. Given the current pressures on GP practices, it may be that this measure is extended further but this is yet to be announced.
These changes only relate to SSP and therefore do not impact or override any contractual obligation to provide a sick note for contractual sick pay purposes.
For example, if your organisation usually requires proof of sickness after 7 days sickness absence before paying contractual sick pay, you may decide to continue with this practice. However, employees may struggle to obtain a fit note due to the lack of capacity at GP practices and some employers may also face resistance from unions and complaints from staff. If this is the case, it is worth checking to see whether your organisation has any private health benefits, such as an employee assistance programme, which can offer your employees private GP appointments to assist in these circumstances.