If the speculation of health experts is to be believed, we may well be heading for another winter in which Covid plays its part.

Colder months, combined with increased ‘indoor socialising’ are suggested as a likely unfortunate combination, which could see more staff off poorly, and more employers seeking to navigate periods of longer-term sickness.

The lead-up to this period is made even more challenging and complex for some employers, as they continue to learn the new requirements regarding declaration of sick leave.

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The MAD-HR team has already seen a sharp increase in managers asking for greater detail around sickness certificates, since new government rules came into force at the start of the summer period.

From 1st July 2022, the Department of Work and Pensions changed the process by which employees can be declared too sick to attend work.

Under the new rules, staff can now get a sick note from a wider selection of healthcare professionals, including GPs or hospital doctors, registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

Founder of MAD-HR, Carole Burman, says the new measures are intended to aid the ease with which employees can get certified, and in particular to reduce the pressure on GPs and NHS doctors.

Despite the intention, however, she says employers have felt in need of clarification.

“For so many reasons, the changes make a great deal of sense,” says Carole.

“It had been seen as quite a task for some staff to get their certification – particularly when GP surgeries are so busy, and it’s harder than it has ever been, to access your own doctor for an appointment.

But at the same time, employers have wanted to be reassured about the authenticity of the approach, if many more groups of professionals can now certify certificates.

We’ve had several calls for employers wanting to clarify how they should confirm the certificate, or whether there are fundamental differences in accepting sick notes from different providers.”

Rules for sick day allowance and entitlements can vary from business to business.

Carole says the basic rules still apply.

“If you are unwell and unable to work for more than seven days, you do need to give your employer proof of sickness.

“This is where certification by a professional comes in, and an employer has the right to insist on this note being submitted.

“If eligible, employees will be paid statutory sick pay (SSP), and the rate of this has risen as recently as April this year, to £99.35 per week.

Employers should use this change in approach as an opportunity to look at what their recruitment process, their staff handbooks, and their ongoing employee communications say about requirements in the case of sickness.

It’s important that both staff and employers are fully aware of what is expected of them.”

For more information about sickness certificates and managing health issues with employees, contact our team for advice and support.