Sick Pay Guide for Employers

Medical evidence your employee should give you

Evidence of incapacity for work

You must tell your employees what you expect them to give you as evidence of incapacity for SSP purposes and when you expect them to give it. You can’t withhold SSP for late receipt of medical evidence but you can for late notification of sickness.

They can use form SC2 for self-certification, or your own equivalent form, for spells of sickness lasting four to seven days.

After that you can ask for reasonable medical evidence but can only ask for a doctor’s statement after the first seven days in a spell of sickness. You can then ask for regular doctor’s statements to cover the balance of the sick absence.

Remember a doctor’s statement is strong evidence of incapacity and should usually be accepted as conclusive unless there is more compelling evidence to the contrary.

You may also find that your employee gives you certificates from someone who is not a registered medical practitioner, such as:

  • osteopaths
  • chiropractors
  • Christian Scientists
  • herbalists
  • acupuncturists.

You should consider such certificates on their own merits. It is for you to decide whether or not you accept this evidence. If you have any doubts you can still ask for a doctor’s statement.

If you have strong doubts about your employee’s sickness but don’t have access to your own ‘works’ doctor, you can ask HMRC to arrange for your employee to be medically examined by their medical services provider.

The medical services report will give an opinion on your employee’s fitness for work in their job with you. This will help you to decide if the employee is incapable of work in their job with you or not.

You can also use this service where the employee has been repeatedly off sick for four to seven days in a relatively short period.

Managing sick absence

How you record, monitor and control sickness absence is a matter for you to decide, but reducing sickness absence levels can reduce costs and increase productivity. You know your employees better than anyone else so you are in the best position to know whether repeated short absences for minor illnesses may be masking a more serious problem or some difficulty at work. Employers who have undertaken personnel or management initiatives to address such problems have seen significant reductions in sickness absence levels.

You may have reason to think that an employee who claims to be sick and incapable of work is, in fact, capable of doing their job and should return to work. If so, you may wish to have their incapacity reviewed by a doctor. If you do not have your own works doctor you can seek help from HMRC Medical Services.

For further advice on managing sick absence go to www.healthandwork.gov.uk and www.hse.gov.uk/sicknessabsence/ Seeking medical advice about lengthy absences

Experience has shown that when a serious illness or injury is diagnosed, for example, serious fractures, malignant diseases, pneumonia or an operation, it is unlikely that incapacity for work will be in doubt during the period for which SSP is payable. Control action would not be appropriate in such cases.

On the other hand, illnesses may continue longer than you would expect. This list gives some of the diagnoses commonly given by doctors as the cause of incapacity on medical certificates issued by them. Rather than specify every illness or disease, the list:

  • groups similar illnesses under one heading
  • suggests a period of absence from work after which you may wish to consider seeking advice.

If you wish to ask HMRC to get a Medical Services opinion, you should not do so earlier than four weeks after the sickness started.

Officers acting on behalf of the Secretary of State use similar guidance when considering the control of IB.

If the employee’s incapacity for work lasts longer than would normally be expected you could decide to:

  • stop paying SSP, but you must explain your reasons to your employee
  • continue paying SSP but seek medical advice
  • accept the incapacity as genuine and continue paying SSP.

If you decide to seek medical advice, you may:

  • use your own medical adviser, or
  • wish to seek a report from your employee’s doctor, or
  • seek the help of HMRC Medical Services.

If your business has its own medical adviser, you should ask them to look into the matter and advise if they accept that the employee is incapable of doing their own job with you or not. The exact arrangements that you have with your medical adviser to deal with these cases are a matter for you to decide.

Medical Services have a contract with DWP which allows them to give HMRC advice about your employee’s incapacity for work in connection with SSP.

If you wish to get advice from Medical Services, you should write to:

HM Revenue & Customs National Insurance Office
Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP3202
Benton Park View
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ.

Enclose:

  • your employee’s full name, address, date of birth, gender and NI number
  • date the present sickness began and the nature of the illness certified by the doctor
  • the latest medical certificate submitted by your employee making sure the doctor’s name and address are clear
  • your employee’s written consent, for the form of words that must be used
  • employee’s occupation and main activities involved in doing the job
  • reason for requesting an opinion
  • outcome of any control action already taken by you during the present spell of sickness.

Ask HMRC to obtain an opinion from our Medical Services on whether your employee is incapable of work or not in connection with SSP and their contract with you.

HMRC will forward the case to Medical Services.

Medical Services will write to the doctor who issued the latest certificate asking for a report from them.

If Medical Services reach the opinion, based on the report, that your employee is incapable of work, they will tell HMRC who will contact you.

However, if Medical Services feel it is necessary for a doctor to examine your employee before they can give an opinion, your employee will be asked to attend for an examination. After the examination, a report is sent to HMRC.

In the report, the doctor will say whether or not they think your employee is incapable of work. HMRC will then write to you. You will not be sent a copy of the report.

Seeking medical advice about frequent absences for short periods

There may be some occasions when your employee has repeated short periods away from work and submits either self-certificates or sick notes provided by their doctor.

If your employee has been sick for four or more short periods in a 12-month period, you may decide to seek the help of Medical Services. You can do this even after your employee has returned to work.

If you wish to get advice from Medical Services, you should write to:

HM Revenue & Customs National Insurance Office
Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP3202
Benton Park View
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ.

explaining that you are seeking Medical Services’ help about your employee having taken repeated short absences from work.

Enclose:

  • your employee’s full name, address, date of birth, gender and NI number
  • date the latest period of sickness began and the nature of the illness certified by the doctor
  • your employee’s written consent, see below for the form of words that must be used
  • copies of any medical certificates submitted by your employee over the last 12 months making sure the doctor’s name and address are clear
  • your employee’s occupation and main activities involved in doing the job
  • reason for requesting an opinion
  • outcome of any control action already taken by you during the present spell of sickness
  • dates of any sick absences of at least four days over the past 12 months (details of the past two years, if known)
  • cause of incapacity given on each occasion, and
  • copies of the four or more self-certificates given by the employee.

HMRC will forward the case to Medical Services.

Medical Services will:

  • ask for a report from your employee’s doctor, and
  • if necessary, ask your employee to attend for an examination.

A report will be sent to HMRC. In addition to giving an opinion as to whether your employee is incapable of work, the doctor will say whether, in their opinion, there are reasonable grounds for your employee having frequent absences from work for medical reasons. When HMRC receive the report, they will write to you. You will not be sent a copy of the report.

The medical report is given under contract to HMRC by our Medical Services and is confidential. It can only be made available to other parties during the course of an appeal hearing when, with written consent from the employee, it is provided as evidence. If requested, the Medical Services doctor will attend the appeal hearing to give evidence relating to their report.

Action when you get the medical advice

If your employee refuses to give their written consent for you to seek medical advice, it is up to you to decide what to do next. You could decide that their refusal to provide consent is sufficient grounds for you to doubt that the incapacity is genuine and stop paying SSP.

If your employee is dissatisfied with your decision, they are entitled to a written statement from you. If they are still dissatisfied, they are entitled to seek a formal decision from HMRC.

HMRC will:

  • ask Medical Services for a copy of the medical reports they have
  • reach a decision as to whether or not SSP should be paid
  • inform both you and your employee.

Employee refuses to give consent

If you decide to stop paying SSP to your employee, you should explain your decision to them, in a written statement.

They are entitled to a written statement from you and can seek a formal decision, on their entitlement to SSP, from HMRC.

An example of written consent

Form of written consent

Name of employer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Full name of employee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Full address of employee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I agree that a medical opinion about my incapacity for work may be obtained by you from HM Revenue & Customs in connection with my entitlement to SSP. I agree that my doctor may give relevant medical information to a doctor acting on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs and agree that, if necessary, a doctor acting on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs may medically examine me and send a report in confidence to HM Revenue & Customs.

Employee’s signature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Date . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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