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Self certification

Sickness absence - Self certification

Many employers now use their own self-certification system for short term sickness absences. As doctors no longer issue medical certificates, now known as medical statements or 'fit notes' (unless paid for) for absences shorter than 8 days, a company self-certification system can be an effective method of controlling absence due to sickness. It also assists in the maintenance of accurate sickness records which all employers are required to keep for Statutory Sick Pay purposes.

Key features for self-certification

The following is a list of features which should be incorporated in the design and operation of a company self-certification system:

  • Self-certification should only be used for personal sickness or injury. Permission for time off for other reasons to be sought from management in the usual way.
  • Self-certification to be required for all sickness absences of less than 8 consecutive days including odd days (i.e. not solely for the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th days of absence).
  • Doctors' certificates are required for all absences of more than 7 consecutive days.
  • Self-certification forms to be kept by supervisors/managers and only issued when an individual is required to complete one (i.e. proper control over issue of blank forms).
  • Forms to be completed in the presence of the supervisors/managers and to be countersigned by the supervisor/manager if he or she is satisfied with the declaration. When the form is being completed the supervisor/manager should ask the employee further questions about the illness or injury if the declaration appears unsatisfactory. These procedures are particularly important as deterrents against malingering.
  • Aim to protect, as far as practicable, the confidentiality of completed forms. A special procedure might be appropriate for cases of illness or injury of a highly personal or embarrassing nature. In such cases, the employee might be allowed to simply specify the nature of the illness as 'personal', and permit the employer to verify with the employee's doctor, if necessary, that there has been genuine sickness.
  • Require employees to undergo independent medical examinations where absences are frequent or lengthy.
  • Reserve the right to obtain a medical report from the employee's doctor if absences are frequent or lengthy. You will still need the employee's written consent before approaching the doctor and the employee will be entitled to see a copy of any report before you receive it.
  • The issue of clear rules to all employees on the operation of the self-certification scheme. The rules should specify the consequences of failure to complete self-certification forms or the making of misleading or false statements. The rules can be issued as an addendum to existing company rules until it is convenient to incorporate them in one document.
  • Ensure that the supervisors/managers are thoroughly familiar with the rules and with their own particular responsibilities for operating and controlling the scheme. These will include the issue, completion, checking and countersigning of forms, asking for more detailed explanations of absences, confidentiality of completed forms and forwarding them to the appropriate department, e.g. wages or personnel.
  • An appeal procedure to deal with disputes about any decisions to withhold sick pay or take disciplinary action under the terms of the scheme.
  • This policy may also be extended in a similar fashion to oblige employees to make a declaration relating to hospital, doctors or dentists' appointments etc. setting out the time, date and reason for the appointment. This can be done using a suitable absence request form.

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