The government has extended the time period that employees can self-certify sick from seven days to 28 days, as it attempts to relieve pressure on GPs delivering the Covid-19 booster rollout.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “To free up capacity for our GPs to support the ramping up of the Covid booster jab rollout, we’ve introduced statutory sick pay changes today.
“For any sickness absences which began on or after 10 December 2021, up to and including 26 January 2022, GPs will not need to provide employees with medical evidence of sickness, such as a fit note, for the first 28 days of absence.”
Employees only need to attend a GP for a fit note if they have been ill for more than 28 days – including non-working days over weekends and bank holidays – and have taken sick leave.
The changes passed through parliament as a statutory instrument, the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021, on Friday 17 December. The regulations apply in England, Scotland and Wales.
The news comes as the TUC highlighted that the UK now has the lowest statutory sick pay in real terms in almost two decades. The last time statutory sick pay was lower in real terms was March 2003.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and self-isolating or putting food on the table. But this is the reality for millions of workers up and down the country who rely on our miserly statutory sick pay, or get no sick pay at all because they don’t earn enough.
Fit note requirements
“With the cost of living ticking up, statutory sick pay is worth its lowest in almost two decades – leaving millions of workers who fall sick struggling to pay the bills and get by.”
Estimates have suggested that as many as four million may have to self-isolate over the Christmas period – quadruple the number last year. TUC research suggests that around a quarter of workers get just statutory sick pay, and just under one in ten get nothing at all.
O’Grady added: “It’s a monumental failure that nearly two years into the pandemic, this vital public health tool has been ignored time and time again by the government.
“As the Omicron variant rages and coronavirus cases sweep across the country, it’s time ministers came to their senses and finally delivered decent sick pay for all.
“That means statutory sick pay you can live on and making sure everyone has access to it.”