Millions of Universal Credit claimants affected by sick note rule change tomorrow

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Sick pay rules were temporarily relaxed to help free up GPs for the booster rollout last month, meaning workers didn’t need to see their doctor if they couldn’t work

Starting tomorrow, you'll need to show a doctor's note after seven days of being sick to receive sick pay or your benefits.
Starting tomorrow, you’ll need to show a doctor’s note after seven days of being sick to receive sick pay or your benefits.

Sick pay laws are fully reinstated this week for all employees who are sick and unable to come to work.

The law was temporarily relaxed to help free up GPs for the booster launch in December, meaning workers didn’t need to see their doctor if they were unwell over the Christmas period.

However, normal rules will return from Thursday, meaning workers who are not feeling well will need to show their employer a sick note signed by the GP after seven days to receive statutory sick pay or benefit payments.

The same goes for those who get sick and receive benefits like Universal Credit and the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Extending the usual sick leave time from seven to 28 days freed up GPs to push the rollout of the booster.

Starting Thursday, you can only self-certify the first seven days of illness
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The longer doctor’s note requirement was set until January 27, 2022. After that, the government said the rules would revert to the normal seven-day period.

A DWP spokesperson at the time said: “To free up capacity for our GPs to support the increased launch of the Covid booster shot, we have introduced changes to statutory sick pay today.

“For any sick leave that began on or after December 10, 2021, up to and including January 26, 2022, attending physicians will not need to provide employees with medical evidence of illness, such as a note of fitness, during the first few weeks. 28 days of absence.

“We encourage everyone who is eligible to receive their booster injection as soon as possible.”

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is worth £96.35 per week for those who qualify.

He is paid by employers for up to 28 weeks after the first three days of illness and he earns at least £120 a week.

But if you are self-isolating for Covid, you can get SSP for the first three days.

In the meantime, if you’re claiming Universal Credit and you feel unwell and it affects your job search, you must show the DWP a note after seven days.

The change also applies to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits, which you can claim if an illness or disability is affecting your ability to work.

Last month, unions stepped up calls for an increase in statutory sick pay, after research suggested it was at its lowest level in almost 20 years.

The TUC said its study showed the last time statutory sick pay (SSP) was lower was in 2003, adding that it was worth £3 a week less in real terms now than it was at the start of the pandemic.

The union has warned that hundreds of thousands of workers could be self-isolating without decent sick pay this Christmas, depending on the “greedy” SSP or receiving nothing at all.

The TUC claimed that the UK has the least generous SSP in Europe, worth £96.35 a week, only available to employees earning £120 a week or more, meaning two million workers, mostly women, do not qualify.

Ministers were urged to extend SSP protection to all workers by removing the lower earnings limit and increasing the amount to at least the value of the voluntary “real living wage” of £346 per week.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and isolating themselves or putting food on the table.

“With the rising cost of living, statutory sick pay is at its lowest value in nearly two decades, leaving millions of sick workers struggling to pay bills and survive.

“As the Omicron variant rages and coronavirus cases spread across the country, it is time for ministers to come to their senses and finally deliver decent sick pay for all.”

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “We have seen throughout this pandemic how especially difficult it has been for many people with low wages, insecure work or who are self-employed when they are sick or need to self-isolate.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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