FAQs – SICKNESS ABSENCE

We support clients to get the basics in place, whilst advising on a wide range of employment matters.  Our clients range from the very small with just two or three employees, right the way up to bigger organisations with 50+ employees.

In this blog series, HR Consultant Melissa Marlow takes you through the most frequently asked questions about “sickness absence”.

What is self-certification?

If an employee is absent due to sickness for up to 7 days in a row (including non-working days) employers can ask them, on their return to work, to complete a form to confirm their absence.

When does an employee need to provide a fit note?

If an employee is absent due to sickness for more than 7 days in a row (including non-working days) they must provide their employer with a fit note.

Employees must obtain a fit note from their doctor and it will detail whether they are either “not fit for work” or “may be fit for work”. Employers can take a copy of the fit note, the employee should keep the original.

Does an employer have to comply with the advice given on a fit note?

It is ultimately the employer’s decision how to act on the advice given on a fit note, as it is advice for the employee.

If the employer is unable to implement any suggestions on a “may be fit for work” fit note due to sound reasons, it should explain this to the employee and treat the fit note as if the doctor had advised that the employee is “not fit for work”.

Can an employer allow an employee to return to work before the expiry of their fit note?

If an employee wishes to return to work before the end of the period covered by their fit note the employer should discuss this with them, and take notes as a record of the discussion.

The employer should make sure they are satisfied that any early return to work will not be to the detriment of the employee’s health or the health and safety of other employees, nor put the employer at risk of a personal injury claim. An employer does not have to allow an early return to work.

Why is it good practice to conduct return-to-work interviews?

Return-to-work interviews are one of the most effective ways to reduce frequent absence. They show to the employee that the employer notices their absence thus acting as a deterrent for casual absence. They also provide an opportunity to identify any underlying causes of frequent absence early on.

Can employees take holiday whilst on sickness absence?

Employees continue to accrue holiday while they are off sick, no matter how long for. An employee can ask to take their time off work on sickness absence, as holiday instead. They might want to do this if they do not qualify for sick pay, for example.

If an employee is on long-term sickness absence they can request to book a period of holiday leave. In fact, it is likely to be in the employer’s interest to agree to such a request to avoid the employee accruing a significant amount of leave, which would need to be taken on their return to work, rolled over to the following leave year, or paid in the case of termination of employment anyway.

What  if an employee is sick whilst on holiday leave?

If an employee is ill just before or during a period of booked holiday leave, they can take it as sick leave instead and will “get back” the pre-booked holiday leave, to use at another time.

When does an employer have to pay sick pay?

Every employer has a legal duty to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) once an employee has been off work for 4 days in a row (including non-working days), but only if the employee qualifies. SSP is paid for up to a maximum of 28 weeks and is subject to tax and national insurance deductions.

Employers may choose to offer a company sick pay scheme in addition to SSP.

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We love working with a variety of businesses and business owners – whether new on your business journey or well established. We are specialists in dealing with tricky HR issues as well as the essentials, like developing your policies and procedures.

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