- From 10 December 2021 temporary changes were introduced to allow employees to self-certify sickness absence for 28 days rather than 7 days. In practice this means that employees cannot be required to provide a fit note until they have been absent for 28 days. This is due to be reviewed on 26 January 2022 and could be extended. More details below.
- From 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for coronavirus will be required to self-isolate immediately but will not be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. More details below.
- From 4am on 7 January you do not have to quarantine on arrival in England if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England. Travel to England from another country during coronavirus (COVID-19)
- On 5 January the DfE updated the Actions for schools during the coronavirus outbreak guidance in line with the UKHSA announcement about confirmatory PCR tests and clarifying that children can return to school after day 7 if they have had two negative LFD tests.
- The DfE have confirmed in the Public health guidance to support exams for 2021 to 2022 that ‘we would not ordinarily expect candidates and invigilators to wear face coverings during exams and assessments, but only on arrival and departure. Both candidates and invigilators may wear face coverings if they wish to do so.’
Temporary changes to allow employees to self-certify sickness absence for 28 days
A temporary change has been introduced relating to the time an employee can self-certify during a period of sickness; this change has been introduced in order to increase GP capacity to support the COVID-19 booster programme and has received very little publicity. Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers
On 17th December 2021, the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1453) (Medical Evidence Regulations 2021) came into force, modifying the Medical Evidence Regulations 1985 to say an employee is not required to provide medical information relating to their sickness absence for the first 28 days. This applies to any absences that either started during the period of 17th December 2021 to 26th January 2022, or commenced prior to the 17th December 2021 but had not lasted more than seven days on that date.
In summary, this temporary rule will apply to those who have been absent from work due to sickness from 10th December 2021 to 26th January 2022. These rules apply to Statutory Sick Pay only so an employer could request medical evidence in the form of a fit note after 7 days of sickness absence for contractual sick pay purposes. However, in practice if the employee is unable to obtain a fit note due to GP capacity the employee should not suffer any detriment and contractual sick pay should be paid.
This will be reviewed on 26th January 2022, however, the Government may extend this temporary change until GP capacity has improved. We will look out for any changes and send out an update as soon as there is further information.
Our advice is that if an employee is likely to be off for longer than seven days then a welfare review meeting should take place. If there is no imminent likely return to work, then the employee should be referred for an occupational health assessment.
Confirmatory PCR tests to be temporarily suspended for positive lateral flow test results
The Press Release from the UK Health Security Agency on 5th January 2022 states:-
From 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for coronavirus (COVID-19) will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test.
This is a temporary measure while COVID-19 rates remain high across the UK. Whilst levels of COVID-19 are high, the vast majority of people with positive LFD results can be confident that they have COVID-19.
Analysis by NHS Test and Trace shows LFD tests to have an estimated specificity of at least 99.97% when used in the community. This means that for every 10,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there are likely to be fewer than 3 false positive results. LFD tests identify the most infectious people. These people tend to spread the virus to many people and so identifying them remains important.
The general coronavirus guidance starts here:-