Local business experts have united to caution the Government on its policy around the self-certification period for Statutory Sick Pay, warning that further extensions to this scheme could cause additional and unnecessary damage to businesses in Yorkshire.
Under current legislation, individuals can now self-certify as being sick from work for 28 days before needing to see a GP – instead of the previous seven days – in a bid to ease the winter burden on the NHS.
The Mid Yorkshire Chamber has collated views and insights on the self-certification from within its membership as it strives to represent and support local firms, championing Yorkshire businesses on a national scale.
Martin Hathaway, managing director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “While any efforts to support our NHS are welcome, I urge the Prime Minister to consider the impact that this is having on already struggling businesses.
“I fear the impact of this extended self-certification period may be greater than the government realises.
“Four out of five firms are struggling to find staff, so any further blows to the workforce may see businesses having to close their doors or reduce hours to accommodate this.
“While only a small percentage of individuals may take advantage of the SSP extension, this could be a final push for companies that are already teetering on the edge.
“Many firms, especially those in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors that have faced the toughest restrictions, are still a long way off a full recovery from Covid-19, not to mention the additional supply chain pressures still being felt as a result of Brexit.”
Charlotte Geesin, legal director at HR and employment law consultancy, and Chamber member, Howarths, added: “Without GP intervention to validate an employee’s reason for being off sick, it can be very hard, if not impossible, for employers to receive actual proof that they are unable to work.
“This was already a problem with the seven day self-certification period and is one which has arguably been made worse by the recent extension.
“Covid-19 restrictions and isolation requirements which leave employees unable to come into the workplace are also placing many SMEs under increased pressure.
“Extending the self-certification period can add to this pressure because it leaves it to employees, rather than GPs, to make a decision about fitness to work.
“In some cases, employees might err on the side of caution, especially in the context of Covid-19 concerns and remain absent from work for longer or until their GP has seen them. Uncertainties over absence can lead to operational and management issues which of course, result in increased costs.”