What medical evidence can an employer request from employees who are absent with coronavirus symptoms, when government advice is not to attend a GP?
Current government guidance is that, to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), individuals with symptoms should stay at home and arrange to have a test, but that they should not go to see their GP.
Most sickness absence policies allow for employees to self-certify absences of up to seven days. Where an employee who is absent for more than seven days advises that they have coronavirus symptoms, the employer will need to make an exception to its normal requirement for medical evidence from the employee's GP. Nevertheless, the employer should take all reasonable steps to verify the sickness absence. This could include requiring the employee to make regular telephone contact, and requiring the employee to explain what medical advice they have sought and followed.
Special measures relating to evidence to support absence are in place during the coronavirus outbreak. If an employer requires evidence, employees who are staying at home because they have symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online. Those who are staying at home on government advice because they share a household with someone that has symptoms can also get an isolation note if they are unable to work from home. If an employee has been advised to self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service, the service will provide them with a notification that they can present as evidence to their employer.
For the purposes of determining eligibility for statutory sick pay, employers are able to set their own rules on what evidence they reasonably require of employees' illness. Legislation does not require that the evidence is in the form of a fit note.