Sickness absences are a headache for all employers. But if you have a diverse workforce some unexpected challenges arise.
Imagine that an employee goes on holiday to their home country and informs you they have fallen ill. They provide you with a sick note issued from a doctor overseas. But can you accept sick notes from abroad?
Do you need to accept it? Does it need to be translated?
Statutory Sick Pay
From a Statutory Sick Pay perspective, the employee will need to provide a self-certificate of illness if their absence lasts up to seven days. If the absence lasts for more than seven days, you can ask the employee to provide medical evidence of their sickness and when they are likely to return to work.
If they are sending sick notes from abroad, you can ask them to provide a non-UK issued medical certificate. HMRC will arrange for a translation of the certificate from that language to English if you are in disagreement with the employee as regards their Statutory Sick Pay entitlement.
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Contractual sick pay
Your business may offer more generous contractual sick pay. In your Employee Handbook, you should lay down the required terms and conditions. It may be that one of the conditions is that any medical certificates or sick notes have to be in a prescribed form; therefore the employee will need to make sure that whatever they provide fulfils the requirement in order to obtain contractual sick pay.
However, you always need to take care to ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk of claims of discrimination. This may be a risk if, for example, you require employees to provide UK fit notes in order to benefit from enhanced contractual sick pay.
But what if they provide a sick note from an online doctor consultation service?
We have also seen that some employees are seeing a GP from home. Push doctor is one such provider. People can talk to a GP via video conference, who can give medical advice, issue prescriptions and provide Fit Notes.
But are they legitimate? Under Push Doctor’s terms and conditions, it makes clear that they are regulated by the Care Quality Commission. On their website, it says that all doctors are ‘specialist general practitioners (GPs) who work in the NHS… Every doctor in our network is registered with the General Medical Council (GMC)’.
If, however, employers are in doubt, Push Doctor provides employers with instructions on how to check the validity of the Fit Notes.
If you do have any concerns, we would urge to undertake the verification process. To discuss how to make further enquiries with an employee’s GP, speak to your Employment Law Adviser’s for advice.