Speaking at a joint session of the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee, Hancock said that the British mentality of soldiering on “needed to change”, and urged anyone with flu-like symptoms to stay off of work.
He said: “I want to have a change in the British way of doing things where ‘in in doubt, get a test’ doesn’t just refer to coronavirus but refers to any illness that you might have.
“Why in Britain do we think it’s acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have flu symptoms or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?
“I think that’s something that is going to have to change. If you have in future flu-like symptoms, you should get a test for it and find out what’s wrong with you, and if you need to stay at home to protect others, then you should stay at home.”
Hancock added that “the culture that ‘as long as you can get out of bed you should get into work’” should change.
Your rights explained
It’s important to know what your rights are in regards to sick leave and sick pay if you need to take time off of work due to illness.
Employment lawyer Philip Landau, of specialist employment law firm Landau Law, explains: “You are entitled to take time off work, usually known as “sick leave”, if you are unwell.”
This is what you need to know, as explained by a lawyer.
Do I need to provide a sick note?
Landau says: “If you have been off work due to sickness for more than seven days in a row, you must provide your employer with a doctors ‘fit note’, sometimes called a ‘sick note’.
“This includes non-working days such as weekends and bank holidays.”
You can get a sick note from your GP, or a hospital doctor. If your employer agrees, a similar note can alternatively be provided by a physiotherapist, podiatrist or occupational therapist instead. This is called an Allied Health Professional (AHP) Health and Work Report.
Fit notes are free for employees to obtain if they have been sick for more than seven days when they ask for one. A doctor may charge a fee if you ask for a note before seven days.
Landau says: “The fit note will say if you are “not fit for work” or “may be fit for work”. If it is the latter, your GP may suggest what changes need to take place by your employer that may help you return to work.
“If there is no agreement on these changes, then you must be treated as “not fit for work”.”
Employers can take a copy of the fit note, and the employee should hold onto the original.
If you’re self isolating and cannot work because of Covid-19, you can get an isolation note from NHS 111.
You don’t have to go to your doctor or a hospital to get this note - instead, fill out the form on the NHS website here.
Can I self-certify my sickness?
“If you are off work for seven consecutive days or less, you can self certify your sickness without having to provide a medical certificate,” Landau explains.
When you return to work, your employer can ask you to confirm that you’ve been off sick - this is called “self certification”.
The employer and employee will agree on how the employee should do this, for example, filling in a form or sending details of their time off by email.
Can my employer make me take holiday days instead of sick days?
Your employer cannot force you to take holiday days or annual leave instead of sick leave.
Similarly, if you become sick whilst you’re on holiday leave, you are entitled to rearrange your holiday for another date later in the year.
Landau says: “If you are ill just before or during your holiday, you can elect to take it as sick leave instead, although your employer may ask for medical evidence of your illness.”
Your employer will essentially be paying you sick pay rather than holiday pay for the period during which you were ill.
You’ll also continue to accrue holiday whilst on sick leave.
Can I be fired as a result of my sickness?
The government states that employers can dismiss an employee who is long term sick as a last resort. Long term sick refers to employees who are off work for more than four weeks.
Before dismissing an employee that is long term sick, an employer must:
Consider if an employee can return to work - such as working flexibly or part time, doing different or less stressful work (with training if necessary)Consult with employees about when they could return to work and if their health will improve
An employee that has been dismissed can take their case to an employment tribunal if they think they’ve been unfairly dismissed.
Landau explains: “It is wrong to think you can never be dismissed, just because you have an illness.
“Your employer should, however, go to some lengths to find out about your current medical position, which would usually involve consultation with your medical advisers and possibly a referral to your employers own occupational health therapists or medical experts.”
What is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
You can claim £95.85 a week for up to 28 weeks under SSP - Landau says that “your employer cannot pay less than SSP”.
To qualify for SSP, you must:
Be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employerEarn an average of at least £120 a weekHave been ill, self isolating or ‘shielding’ for at least four days in a row (including non-working days)
You won’t qualify for SSP if you:
Have received the maximum amount of SSP, which is 28 weeksAre getting Statutory Maternity PayAre self isolating after entering or returning to the UK, and do not need to self isolate for any other reason
You can still qualify for SSP if you started your job recently and have not yet received eight weeks’ pay. You’ll need to ask your employer to find out more information.
To claim SSP, you must tell your employer when you’re sick. If you cannot work for seven or more days (including non working days), you’ll need:
An isolation note if you’re unable to work because of Covid-19A letter or shielding note from your doctor of a health authority advising you to shield because you’re at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19Your notification from the NHS or public health authorities if you’ve been told to self isolate because you’ve come into contact with someone with Covid-19A fit note (or sick note) if you’re off sick for another reasonA letter confirming the date of your procedure if you’ve been advised to self isolate before going into hospital for surgery.