What is Self Certification?
Employees who are off sick for more than seven days in the UK usually need to provide evidence of illness by getting a ‘fit note’ from their doctor.
‘Fit note’ is the informal name for the ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’ and replaced the ‘sick note’ in April 2010.
Employees who are off sick from work for seven days or less don’t need to provide a note from the GP to show that they have been ill. Instead, employees are asked to confirm in writing that they have been sick when they return to work by filling in a self-certification form (often a business will have their own self-certification forms).
Self-certification forms usually include details such as:
- The date the illness started and ended (which could be a non-work day, e.g. a bank holiday)
- Generally, the process of self-certification is simple although issues can arise in some cases, such as:
- Doubt from the employer’s perspective about the reason for absence
- Confidentiality issues (e.g. where an employee has stated ‘personal reasons’ or ‘confidential’ as the reason for absence)
- Refusal to fill in the certificate
- Common health issues blamed for illness eg colds/flu/stomach upset when it’s something else but picked as a reason for illness as it only last a few days/hours and the symptoms can be enough to warrant time off; also you wouldn’t be expected to visit your Doctor
- Not saying what the real problem is
How can occupational health services help:
If in doubt about an employee’s illness or reason for short-term absence then setting up an appointment to see occupational health will help clarify the situation. Occupational health services can also help with setting up your own sickness absence policy and advise you on setting targets for those who take frequent days off.
What’s the impact on your business:
Employers should monitor the causes of absence in order to identify any work-related ill health or domestic issues that may be influencing absence. These could include:
- Frequent coughs or colds which may be linked to allergy (e.g. for those working with respiratory sensitisers)
- Occasional days off to counteract work-related stress
- Skin problems (e.g. for those working with skin sensitisers or irritants)
- Illness during school holidays, which might suggest that an employee is taking time off due to childcare issues
- ‘illness’ around the time of national events (e.g. the World Cup, Wimbledon, etc.)
- Employers should discuss the reasons for absence with the employee during the return to work interview. If in doubt about the reason for the absence, or where the absence may be due to a work-related health matter, referral to an occupational health service may be required.
What’s the impact on your workers:
Establishing a self-certification system means that everyone has to account for their days off sick which is important if there is a culture of taking days off at the drop of a hat.
Is there any Law about this?
Under the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) regulations employers are obliged to keep records of sickness absence and payment of sick pay. Where an employee is unable to work for longer than would normally be expected, employers could decide to:
- Not to pay SSP/company sick pay (reasons for non-payment would need to be given to the employee)
- Continue to pay sick pay but seek medical advice
- Accept the situation and continue paying sick pay