3 May 2023

How to navigate sick leave over 7 days

As many businesses we work with don’t necessarily know they need help until they are faced head-on with an issue, we thought it would be helpful over a series of posts to tackle the top 10 HR questions we hear. It’s a good indicator to see if you know the answers or may need some support. So here goes…

Q1: What should an employer do if an employee is off sick for over a week but has not submitted a fit note?

Most employers allow employees to self-certify their absence for the first seven days of sickness and require a fit note 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).

As an employer, you are entitled to require reasonable information to determine if the employee is entitled to SSP. You can accept alternative evidence of sickness (e.g. evidence of admission to hospital) and can decide to pay SSP if the employee has a good reason for not supplying a fit note.

However, if you are not satisfied that the employee is ill, and no evidence of their sickness is provided, you can withhold SSP. Evidence requirements for payment of contractual sick pay will depend on the terms of your company sickness policy.

Good practice would suggest that before withholding SSP, you attempt to contact the employee by telephone and find out why no fit note has been provided.

If this is unsuccessful, or if you are still not satisfied with the employee's explanation, then you should write to the employee setting out the sickness reporting requirements as dictated by your company absence policy (if applicable), pointing out that sick pay may be withheld if no evidence is provided.

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

Of course, if a fit note is submitted, you must still consider whether the employee qualifies for SSP, work out the average weekly earnings and calculate how much SSP is due.

This can be tricky to get right. Did you know we provide payroll support too?