Sickness absence reporting and record-keeping arrangements

Statutory Sick Pay regulations – temporary changes for the period to 26 January 2022

Normally employees are able to self-certify for the first seven calendar days of a period of incapacity for work after which time medical evidence is required, usually in the form of a ‘fit note’ from a GP. Emergency legislation was enacted on 17 December 2021 (The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021) which provides that an employee shall not be required to provide medical information in respect of the first 28 days of any period of incapacity for work.  This means that to be eligible for SSP an employee is now able to self-certify for a period of four weeks, including non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays without providing medical evidence. The explanatory memorandum accompanying the regulations states that the change is a temporary measure and is intended to maximise GP capacity to support the coronavirus vaccine  booster programme and relieve pressure on the NHS during the winter period.

This legislation is time-limited and only applies to absences which commence on any day between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022 inclusive: although the regulations are effective from 17 December 2021, they apply to absences commencing less than seven days prior to that date i.e. from 10 December as the usual self-certification period of seven days had not yet been reached in respect of these periods of absence.

However,

  • staff should continue to contact medical professionals as early as they need to if they are unwell and need medical advice
  • where staff report to their department that they are unfit for work due to sickness a reason for absence is required and staff should be asked to confirm whether the reason for absence that they are giving has been confirmed by a GP or other medical practitioner. Where such a medical consultation has taken place and a particular period of absence has been recommended, this should be reported to the department as early as possible so that departments can plan appropriate cover
  • where staff have already set in train arrangements to request a Fit Note for a period of absence during the period from 10 December departments should consider on a case-by-case basis the most appropriate response to the legislative change
  • departments retain the discretion to require staff to request a Fit Note from their GP earlier than 28 days where they feel this is essential. However, in such cases Medical Professionals are entitled to charge for producing the Fit Note and this cost will be reimbursed by departments. It is recognised that there may be significant delays in GP practices producing such notes and, given the reason for the emergency legislation, this requirement should be used  sparingly
  • the arrangements for isolation notes is unchanged.

Periods of sickness absence commencing on or after 27 January 2022 will be subject to the usual seven-day self-certification period unless the regulations are extended, or further legislation is introduced.

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This procedure should be explained to all employees, especially those who are new to the University.

Basic procedures for notification of sickness are outlined in Staff Handbook Section 4 but departments can supplement this with their own specific guidelines, including to whom sickness absences must be reported, relevant contact details and the preferred communication method. 

It is the responsibility of the employee to notify their department if they are unable to attend work due to sickness, as soon as possible on the first day of absence. Employees must provide a reason for absence, and where possible give an indication of the date they expect to be back at work. If an employee fails to provide such notification without good reason, sick pay (including payment under the University's scheme) will be withheld.

Employees who work from home or away from the department must follow the normal notification procedures.

Academic staff must notify their department/faculty and their divisional contact, including sickness occurring during vacation time or while the member of staff is on sabbatical leave, even if they are out of Oxford at the time. Academic staff with college appointments must also notify the college.

See also the special provisions that apply to employees with a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa.

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Why record and monitor sickness?

Recording sickness absence helps with the management of employees who are absent due to sickness, and ensures an accurate payment of both contractual and statutory sick pay.

It is important to know why an employee is sick, in case the cause could be work-related, or if reasonable adjustments are needed to help the employee return to work, as well as organise appropriate cover for the absence, if needed. Analysing sickness absence records can uncover any notable patterns or reasons for absence that could be caused by or exacerbated by work. Early intervention can increase the chances of a quicker return to work and minimise disruption caused by absences. Monitoring of sickness absence records will facilitate an early identification of any potential problems.

Guidance on recording sickness absence

A record of every sickness instance should be made, to include the date of notification of absence, the reason for it by reference to the standard definitions as per the Sickness Absence Record form (on the right-hand side of the page) and later, the date the employee returned to work. It is important that sickness absence records are completed accurately, and adhere to the requirements of data protection legislation.

Sickness absence for employees working from home or away from the department should be recorded in the normal way.

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If an employee is absent through sickness for up to seven consecutive calendar days, they should be asked to complete a self-certification form (Sickness Absence Record Form) on return to work, which must be signed off by the manager and filed on the employee’s sickness record. False statements on this form could lead to prosecution (in the event of false SSP claim) and/or disciplinary action by the University. This form can be completed as part of the ‘Return to work discussion’.

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If an employee is absent from work because of sickness for more than seven consecutive calendar days, a doctor's certificate ('Fit Note' - Statement of fitness for work) should normally be obtained and a copy sent to the department as soon as possible.

Coronavirus/Covid-19

Under the current circumstances staff may find it very difficult to get a Fit Note.  Speak to your HRBP for further advice.

 

The employee should continue to send in Fit Notes until the doctor decides the individual is fit to return to work (which could be on reduced duties). A ‘return to work discussion’  (RTW) should take place upon the employee’s return to work.

A Fit Note is required for both the University sick pay and SSP purposes.

Read more about Fit Notes and RTW arrangements

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If you are participating in the pilot to record annual leave and sickness information in HR Self-Service, please visit the dedicated Staff Gateway page for guidance or contact your HR administrator.

All absence and medical records contain confidential information, regarded as ‘sensitive personal data’, and thus should always be administered in accordance with the requirements of the GDPR and related UK data protection legislation and the University’s policy on Data Protection. Managers would need to be able to justify the need to process any sensitive data (for example, specific information about the employee’s medical condition) as per the statutory conditions of the data protection legislation.

See also 'Retention periods for University personnel records'