09 July 2019

Dealing with sickness absence is unavoidable for employers. When an employee returns from sick leave, they can be asked to provide a self-certificate for work.

Through managing sick leave, employers can help reduce absenteeism, as well as safeguard their staff’s health and wellbeing.

Without a proper absence policy in place, you risk your legal duty of care for your staff. Which can lead to discrimination claims, employee departures, and business disruption.

Read all about self-certification, what are the legal rules around it, and where it fits in your sickness absence procedure.

What is self-certification?

Self-certification is a type of sick leave where employee aren’t obliged to provide information on their sickness absence.

However, if your business policies require it, you can ask them to complete a self-certification form or provide written details for their absence. These forms are generally a shorter version of a fit to work note.

You can either ask them to provide a form for every day they’re off sick. Or one form for the whole period – it depends on your sickness absence policy.

How long can you self-certify sickness?

Self-certificates sick notes are only required if the absence is seven days or less. Anything longer would require a fit note from a GP or health professional.

A ‘statement of fitness for work’ stands as medical proof on whether employees can return to work.

General business rules state employees receive no more than four self-certified sick days per annual year. Any more could lead to a review of their absence record. But this is entirely dependent on your own internal policies and contractual terms.

Can an employer ask for proof of sickness?

If an employee is absent for less than seven days, they don’t need to show proof for their sickness. It’s only a legal requirement when it’s more than seven days – this is done through fit notes.

It’s usually up to employers what proof they require for a self-certify sickness. And in everyday occurrences, you should take an employee’s proof for sickness at face value.

But to control fraudulence or malingering, set out a sickness absence policy within your business. This can be done by reporting it via an absence line, or by calling managers directly.

Remember, the temporary change for self-certification extends this to 28 days – until 27th January 2022.

Do you get paid for self-certified sick?

Whilst employees are absent, they could qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP). Self-certified sick pay is provided during an employee is incapable of working – for four or more consecutive days.

The actual days an employee is sick (including non-working days, like weekends or holidays) count towards self-certified sick leave. All the working days that an employee is off sick are called qualifying days. They could receive SSP for these days – except the first three days or waiting days.

During the first seven days, employees can provide a self-cert sick form and receive SSP. Any time longer, they will then need to give a fit note.

How to include self-certification in your sickness absence procedure

It’s always good business practice to track absenteeism – especially if sick leave related to disability sickness. That way, you can pre-determine any disruptions and make reasonable adjustments to protect your staff’s wellbeing.

Many employees have their own self-certification sick form. It allows them to introduce their own regulations on how to self-certify sickness – meeting both business and staff needs.

For example, your staff might need more sick leave due to working outdoors or doing labour-heavy work. So, having extended sick leave days or suitable sick pay can prove to be beneficial.

How to manage self-certification sick notes

Self-certification notes should be kept by management; and proper control over blank forms should be held.

Once the employee has filled in the form, you can sign it off. If you have doubts or issues, ask the employee to further explain their sickness. It’s important to question any concerns you might have, as it helps to control fraudulence and further absenteeism.

It's vital to practice confidentiality for completed forms. It might be a good idea to have a separate procedure which deals with delicate or personal sick leave notes.

If the same employee is repeatedly off sick, you could ask them to undertake an independent medical examination. Here, you could reserve the right to their medical report, but you must have the employee’s written consent first.

You should also outline consequences for failing to complete self-certified sick note forms or providing false information. Make sure each form is thoroughly checked and competed.

Get expert help on self-certification with Peninsula

Dealing with sickness absences whilst managing a business can become overwhelming. But if you fail to comply with your legal duties, you could face more than a lost day of production.

Employees could raise discrimination claims if they felt they were treated unlawfully whilst on sick leave. Which means, you could face going through hearings, which can be costly and damaging for your business.

Peninsula offers expert help on self-certification procedures. Our clients get access to 24-hour HR advice who can ensure your sickness absence management are legally compliant.

Get in touch today; or use our callback form to arrange for us to get in touch at a time that is convenient for you. Call us on 0800 028 2420

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