Self Certification Form: Employers’ Guide


In this guide for managers, we explain the rules on when employees can self-certify for sickness absence, the role of self-certification forms and share best practice advice on managing sickness absence at work.


Self certification

Self certification gives employees the right to be off work for up to seven days of illness without having to request a sick note from their doctor.

Each employer should have a sickness absence policy in place which makes it clear what employees are entitled to and what their responsibilities are in relation to absence from work.


How long can someone self certify sickness?

Employees can self certify their illness as long as their absence is under seven consecutive days. Those seven days can include weekends and bank holidays too. Any longer than this and they will need a sick note.


Can employees self certify for 28 days?

During the pandemic, the government decided to increase the self certification period to 28 days. This meant individuals did not require a doctor’s note for up to 28 days. The self certification period reverted to 7 days on 27th January 2022, so you can no longer self certify for 28 days.


How to self certify

How someone self certifies will depend on their workplace and the rules of their organsition, typically found wihtin the sickenss absence policy. It’s important employees are made aware of the appropriate sick policies to ensure they follow the correct procedure.

This process usually just involves telling their employer the reason they are off. The employee may be asked to complete a sickness form on their return to work.


Do employees need to use a set certification form?

A self certification form is a document an employee fills in when they are ill for less than 7 days.

Where the employer does not have its own form, the employee should use self certification form, SC2 , available on the .gov website. The SC2 is used to claim SSP after 3 consecutive days of absence due to illness.

The employer may have their own self-certification form. If not, the employee can download one from HM Revenue and Customs or use form SP2 from their GP surgery.

If the employee is off work sick for seven days or less, the employer should not ask for medical evidence that they have been ill.


Can employees claim sick pay if self-certifying?

Yes, employees can claim SSP when off sick, even without a sick note. The will need to be off sick for 4 days in a row and on the 4th day they become entitled to sick pay. The days prior to this are referred to as “waiting days” and the employment contract should state how payment will work over this period.


How much is self certification sick pay?

Self certifcation sick pay kicks in on day 4 of sick leave. If the employee is only entitled to SSP this works out at £99.35 per week for a total of 28 weeks.

Some companies may have their own sickness pay policies and this is fine but they cannot be less than SSP.

The employment contract should be referred to when determining eligibility to sick pay, including whether there is contractual or enhanced sick pay available.


Absences longer than 7 days

If the absence is over 7 days, the employee can no longer self certify and needs to get a fit note.

This can be done through their local GP service or other medical professional as required.

Failing to produce a sick note will affect the employee’s rights to SSP and the time spent off work may be deemed unauthorised.


Sickness absence & disabilities

If the employee suffers a qualifying disability under the Equality Act 2010, and their absence is directly attributable to this disability, it may be that some or all of the period of absence leave is handled separately to ‘normal’ absence under the employer’s specific Disability Leave policy.


Fit notes

For sickness lasting longer than the self certification period, the employee will need to submit a fit note to their employer.

Specified healthcare professionals can indicate in a fit note whether the employee is fit for work, or whether they are fit for work if certain changes are made.

This document will detail their professional opinion of the employee’s ability to go back to work. The note will either say the employee is fit for work or not fit for work.

It may also state any limitations the individual may have that means their job role may need to be adapted slightly. If the changes to the job role cannot be met then the note can be changed to not fit for work.

A sick note should not provide any confidential information about the employee’s health to their employer.

If the health problem is work-related (for example, stress), it is important for the fit note to say so to allow the employer and employee to try and resolve the problem.

If absence is due to work-related stress, for example due to staffing shortages caused by unsustainable pressures at work, it is important that the employee reports these concerns as they are a health and safety matter.

Ultimately, the fit note is classed as advice. The employer can decide whether or not to accept it.

If the employee is not satisfied with the employer’s interpretation of the fit note advice, they may return to their health care professional for follow up advice where a new, more explicit note may be issued. In some cases the employee may be considered unfit for work until they are fully recovered or the recommended changes have been made.


Sickness absence management meetings

It is good practice to meet with employees on their return to work to discuss their sickness absence. The meeting should be used to confirm the facts and to allow the employer to raise any concerns or causes if their absence with their employer. Employees use these return to work meetings as their opportunity to input or ask questions about their absence or the absence policy and procedure.

Employers normally refer to sickness absence in stages, for example stages 1 – 4. Typically, stage one is for short term sickness and stage 3 or 4 for longer term absence and possibly dismissal. Each stage would usually involve a meeting.

Sickness meetings can involve the employer setting a target for a return to work or limiting the amount of sickness absence that is allowable in future. It can also look at whether there is anything work-related that is contributing to the sickness and whether adjustments can be made.

Arrangements can also be made for further medical evidence to be sought from the employee’s doctor or occupational health.


How to prepare for meetings

Both the employer and employee must comply with the organisation’s sickness absence policy.

Share any relevant paperwork with the employee before the meeting to allow them to prepare.

During the meeting, listen carefully to what the employee says and ask to clarify anything that is not clear.

Employees can ask for a break or to postpone the meeting if they are unsure and would like more time to consider their responses.

Any proposals that are discussed in the meeting should be written down and given to the employee to consider, for example in consultation with either their representative or family and friends, before signing.

The employer should also share minutes from the meeting with the employee.


Self certification & sick pay 

Employees who are absent from work due to sickness will probably be entitled to either contractual sick pay – paid by the employer as part of their contract – or statutory sick pay (SSP) – paid by the employer but claimed back from the government.

Employees are not entitled to SSP for the first three working days of their sick leave, but may receive it from the fourth day onwards until they return to work. They may also be eligible for other state benefits such as help with paying council tax or employment and support allowance from the government.


Contractual sick pay

The employment contract should state if the employee is entitled to enhanced sick leave and pay provisions. The employer must meet the entitlements under the contract. Contractual sick pay and leave can be more but not less than what the employee is entitled to under the statutory rules.


Agency workers’ rights to sick pay

After 12 weeks in the same job, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 entitle agency workers to the same basic conditions of employment as permanent employees (such as pay). However, the regulations do not include rights to contractual sick pay. Agency workers may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they satisfy the eligibility criteria.


Sickness during pregnancy

If an employee is unwell during pregnancy, they should follow the employer’s normal sickness reporting procedures.

The employer must record any pregnancy-related sickness absence separately from other sick leave. Pregnancy-related sickness absence must not be used as a reason for disciplinary action, dismissal or redundancy.

Pregnant employees also have the same rights to paid sick leave as any other employee.

If an employee is off sick with a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks before their expected week of childbirth, the employer can ask them to start their maternity leave.


Contacting employees off on sick leave  

Employers are expected to maintain regular contact with employees on long term sick leave. The organisation’s sickness policy may provide guidance in this area for managers, but generally, employers are required to act reasonably when contacting employees that are off sick.


Sickness while on annual leave

Most employers will allow staff to claim back their annual leave if they are sick while on holiday. This should be stated within the organsiation’s annual leave and/or sickness absence policy.

If an employee is unwell while on holiday, they should:

  • obtain a sick note from a medical practitioner (in English if possible)
  • follow their employer’s policy and inform their employer as soon as possible (i.e. while on holiday, rather than when they return)
  • on their return to the UK, visit their GP immediately for an updated certificate.

In such cases, failure to reimburse annual leave, or refusing to accept an overseas sick note, may constitute an unlawful deduction of wages.


Taking annual leave while on sick leave

Whether an employee can go on holiday while on sick leave will depend on various things, including:

  • the reason for the sickness
  • whether the GP has recommended the trip for recuperation or convalescence
  • whether the holiday had been pre-booked and paid for
  • whether it would be deemed reasonable under all of the circumstances.

Ideally, the employee would secure the agreement of their employer before going on an overseas holiday. Failure to reach any agreement and deciding to take a holiday could possibly lead to disciplinary action and/or deduction of sick pay.


Need assistance? 

Our employment law experts support employers with all aspects of sickness absence, including rules on self-certification and sick pay. Through our Triple A service, you can gain unlimited access to our legal experts for a fixed monthly fee. For advice or to find out more about Triple A, speak to us.


Self certification form FAQs

How Long Can You Self Certify Sickness?

You can self certify your illness as long as your absence is under 7 consecutive days. Any longer than this and you need a sick note.

Do you get sick pay with a self certificate?

On day 4 your employer should start paying you SSP or sick pay as stipulated in your contract. You are still entitled to sick pay during a period of self-certification once you have been off for 4 consecutive days.

Last updated: 12 November 2022

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