What steps should an employer take where an employee is off sick for over a week but has not submitted a doctor’s certificate?

Most employers allow employees to self-certify their absence for the first seven days of sickness and require a doctor’s certificate now known as a fit note, only for longer absences. If an employee is absent without a fit note, where they been sick for more than seven days, the employer may be entitled to withhold either contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay (SSP), although there were temporary measures in place only until the 26th January 2022, due to the Covid Pandemic.

On 17 December 2021, the Government introduced regulations temporarily extending the timeframe for employees to provide medical evidence for the purposes of statutory sick pay, from seven to 28 days, which ended on the 26 January 2022.

Therefore, normal rules now apply again, and as an employer, you are entitled to require reasonable information to determine if the employee is entitled to SSP. An employer can accept alternative evidence of sickness (for example evidence of admission to hospital) and can decide to pay SSP if the employee has a good reason for not supplying a doctor’s certificate. However, if the employer is not satisfied that the employee is ill, and no evidence of their sickness is provided, it can withhold SSP. Evidence requirements for payment of contractual sick pay will depend on the terms of the employer’s sickness policy.

Initially the employer should attempt to make contact with the employee by telephone/text or email to find out why no fit note has been provided.

If this is unsuccessful, or the employer is not satisfied with the employee’s explanation, the employer should write to the employee setting out the sickness reporting requirements as dictated by its absence policy (if applicable), pointing out that sick pay may be withheld if no evidence is provided and that unauthorised absence could be a disciplinary matter, again depending on your disciplinary policy.

If the employee still does not provide certification, the employer can treat the absence as unauthorised and implement its disciplinary procedure.

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