The proposal made by doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual conference to permit workers to “self-certify” sickness for up to 14 days has been met with opposition by employers.
Employers across the UK generally allow workers to self-certify sickness for up to 7 calendar days before a doctor’s certificate or “fit note” is required. Theoretically, employers can request whatever medical evidence they like from workers, whenever they like. However, they are restrained by the Statutory Sick Pay provisions which prevent them from insisting on a doctor’s certificate during the first 7 days.
The idea of extending this requirement to 14 days has been criticised by many employers who believe that the proposed changes could result in a significant increase in workplace absences. Concerns have also been raised about employers being “kept in the dark” for longer. Employers could be forced to wait 14 days until they receive the information they need to understand how sick the worker is, if and when they are likely to return to work and what they can do to manage the absence efficiently. On the flip side, GPs argue that employers should be more trusting of workers.
Whilst a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that they have no plans to change the existing self-certification policy, the increasing pressures on GPs means that this is an area which is likely to be the subject of further debate.