Workers no longer need to show a sick note to their employer within seven days of falling ill to get pay or benefits under new Covid rules.
Rules previously required anyone who is unwell to get a GP-signed note after a week to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or benefit payments.
However, this has been temporarily relaxed due to soaring coronavirus cases, granting workers more time before they have to show a sick note after falling ill.
When do I need to get a sick note?
As of 10 December, any worker who falls ill will not be asked to provide their employer with a sick note until after 28 days of sickness, including non-working days.
After 28 days, workers will then need proof of illness to claim SSP.
The same rule applies to those who fall ill and are on benefits, including Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The extension from seven to 28 days for providing a sick note has been introduced to help free up GPs to assist with the Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout.
The UK government has set a target of offering all eligible adults a top-up dose by the end of the year, after the rollout was ramped up to try and curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
How long will the new rules be in place?
The extension to the sick note period will only be in place temporarily.
The 28 day rule will remain until 27 January 2022, after which it will return to the usual seven day period.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson 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.
“We encourage everyone eligible to get their booster jab as soon as possible.”
How much is Statutory Sick Pay?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is worth £96.35 a week for those who are eligible
It is paid by employers for up to 28 weeks after the first three days of illness, and you are earning at least £120 per week.
If you are self-isolating due to Covid-19, you must self-isolate for at least four days to be eligible for SSP.
It is paid in the same way as your normal wages, so you may receive it weekly or monthly.
If you are claiming Universal Credit and become unwell and this affects your search for work, you will need to show a note to the DWP after 28 days.
The temporary rule change also applies to those who claim Employment and Support Allowance benefits (ESA), which you can get if an illness or disability is affecting your capacity to work.
Who is eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?
To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must:
- be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer
- earn an average of at least £120 per week
- have been ill or self-isolating for at least four days in a row (including non-working days)
How many days you can get SSP will depend on why you are off work. Agency workers are also entitled to SSP.
If you are self-isolating and cannot work due to Covid-19, you can get an ‘isolation note’ online from NHS 111 if you are off work for seven days or more. If you have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that you are a contact of someone with Covid-19, your notification is valid as proof.
How do I claim it?
To claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), you must tell your employer by the deadline and provide proof of sickness if you are off work for more than 28 days in a row (including non-working days).
If you started your sick leave before 10 December 2021, you must show a sick note if you have been off work for more than seven days in a row (including non-working days).
Proof of sickness can include any of the following:
- an ‘isolation note’ if you are unable to work because of Covid-19
- a notification from the NHS or public health authorities if you have been told to self-isolate because you are a contact of someone with Covid-19
- a ‘fit note’ (or sick note) if you are off sick for another reason
- a letter confirming the date of your procedure if you have been advised to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
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