According to Personnel Today the government is seriously considering allowing employees to self-certify their sickness absence for up to two weeks.
The proposal from the Department of Health is part of a raft of measures in preparation for what is expected to be a significant increase in the number of swine flu cases this autumn. Since they are classed as emergency measures there is unlikely to be consultation with employers.
Employees can currently be off for seven days, including weekends and bank holidays, without needing a GP’s note. The government’s national framework for dealing with a flu pandemic estimates that up to 50% of the workforce may require time off at some stage, “with individuals absent for a period of seven to 10 working days”. It is also anticipated that, since the advice is to stay at home, others will need to take time off to look after sick relatives and other dependants.
Of course, the extended period of self-certification will provide opportunities for abuse. There is an obvious concern that people with a cold or other minor ailment will take advantage of what has been described as a “freedom pass” and there is, in reality, very little that can be done by employers.
On the other hand there is the need to observe quarantine periods and responsible employers will be concerned to play their part in assisting the containment of the pandemic, albeit that smaller employers in particular are likely to be hard hit by staff shortages.
It has also been reported today that there are plans to vaccinate the entire population.
If introduced, the two-week self-certification provision will be applied for six months.