Sickness absence is inevitable.

While many employees will only be absent for a few days before they can return to work, some might require longer periods off.

It is therefore important to know the rules around certification and eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

An employee is eligible for SSP when they have been sick for four consecutive qualifying days, which are days that they would have normally worked.

Other eligibility criteria for SSP include earning an average of at least £123 per week before tax and providing notice of sickness absence within the Company’s deadline, often outlined in the employee’s contract of employment (see the ACAS website for further details).

During this time off, employees can self-certify their absence, usually verbally in the first instance and then in writing, with a self-certification form, completed when they return to work.

After seven consecutive days of absence due to sickness (including non-working days), employers usually request a fit note, which can be issued to an employee by a registered healthcare professional.

Although employers often require this fit note following seven continuous days’ absence to assess entitlement to SSP, employers shouldn’t withhold SSP if this isn’t provided as the employee may have a genuine reason for not having a fit note, such as struggling to secure an appointment with the GP.

You should not withhold SSP due to non-submission of a fit note if you are aware of the absence and you deem this to be genuine.

So, as an example, if an employee has been off on certified absence for two weeks but fails to send a fit note for the third week, you are already aware of this genuine absence so should process SSP as normal and follow the employee up to obtain the fit note.

Only where an employee fails to provide a fit note after several requests and has no good reason for non-submission could employers potentially withhold SSP.

However, this should not be standard practice as employees can challenge this with HMRC.

For further information click Statutory Sick Pay.

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