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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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In this guide, we'll look at what self-certification is, when they're needed, and how to process this type of sick note.

Sometimes, an employee might be off work sick for a short time. When they're ready to work again, they should provide self-certification.

Whilst this may seem like a personalised sick note; it actually comes with certain legal requirements. If these are neglected, employers could risk injuring employees further, paying fines, and causing higher absenteeism.

In this guide, we'll look at what self-certification is, when they're needed, and how to process this type of sick note.

What is self-certification?

Self-certification is when an employee provides a personal note explaining their reasons for being off work sick.

Employees won't need a private certificate or doctor's note for this type of short-term absence. Instead, they'll need to say how they were ill and if they're well enough to do their usual job. They don't need to provide medical evidence from a healthcare professional either (like a GP or hospital doctor).

Self-certification forms are often seen as a shortened version of a Fit for Work note. They can only be used for four sick days per year. But if the employer agrees, sick employees may be able to use them for extended or multiple sickness absences.

How long can you self-certify for?

A sick employee can only self-certify if they're sick for seven days or less. This is known as short-term sickness. Employees must count sick days that fall on non-working days (like weekends and bank holidays).

Before being allowed to work, employees should explain their reasons for sick leave verbally or through writing (like a letter or email). Employers can ask for a self-certification form (SC2), but it's not a legal requirement. They're also not required to get a fit note to verify this time.

Can you self-certify for more than seven days in a row?

No, employees cannot self-certify if they're sick for more than seven days in a row. This is known as long-term sickness. (Again, this includes non-working days, like weekends and bank holidays).

Employees should only be allowed to work with the guidance of a healthcare professional. For example, a hospital doctor, registered nurse, or occupational therapist. But it’s up to you whether to let them.

These healthcare professionals will provide a Statement of Fitness for Work (or 'fit note'). The fit note will state whether the employee's health affects their fitness for work. Or if they need further time off to recover before returning to work.

How to manage self-certification during sick leave

Short-term sick leave is not the same as long-term. They each have their own legal rules and requirements that you must follow.

When an employee is off work sick for less than seven days, you shouldn’t just wait for them to get better. Employers should take appropriate steps towards helping them return in the appropriate manner.

Let's take a look at ways to manage self-certification during sick leave:

Outline the rules on self-certification

The first step employers should take is to outline the rules on self-certification. Make sure you highlight what it means, when it's needed, and how it's different to a fit note.

The rules must be accessible for all employees; including part-time employees or those on leave (like maternity, paternity, or parental leave). It's also best to mention the consequences of providing false information or no explanation at all.

Create your own self-certification form

As mentioned, employees should certify their sickness verbally or through writing. To make the process easier, employers can create their own self-certification forms.

Make sure sick employees know how to access your own form, who to send it to, and what it must include. Include steps on what to do if they're unable to return after seven days of sick leave.

Only ask for evidence when necessary

Employees don't need to provide proof from a healthcare professional if they're off work for less than seven days. But there might be times you can request medical evidence when it's absolutely necessary.

For example, an employee takes frequent short-term sick leave due to a mental health disability. You could ask for a private medical certificate for proof; or want to ask their occupational therapist for advice on reasonable adjustments.

Provide statutory sick pay (SSP)

Some employees may be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) if they're on sick leave. This is only payable after their fourth sick day (and beyond). You don't have to pay SSP on the first three days.

Sick pay comes with its own legal limits and requirements. Employers must comply with these rules in order to avoid over or underpaying sick employees.

Outline the consequences for fraudulence

Sometimes, you might suspect an employee is faking an illness or 'malingering' (pretending to be sick in order to escape work duties).

Before jumping to conclusions, you must have credible evidence to back up your claim. You can request medical evidence from an allied health professional (only with their permission). If they can't give their employer proof, appropriate disciplinary action could be taken.

Get expert help on self-certification with Peninsula

From providing self certification forms to getting support from a healthcare professional - there are many things to consider during sickness absences.

In the end, you need to support employees during these troubling times. If you don't, you could end up injuring employees further, paying fines, and causing higher absenteeism.

Peninsula offers expert help on self-certification. Our teams offer 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4377 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.


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