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Thursday 23 December 2021

Latest changes to workplace policies during the pandemic

By MiP

Woman in a hospital bed wearing a mask
HH E on Unsplash 2020

Several key policies for leave, self-isolation and sickness absence during the pandemic have been updated in the last few days. The key changes are summarised below, together with an update on the mandatory vaccination policy in the NHS in England.

Annual leave during the pandemic

In this joint statement from the NHS Staff Council, employers have been reminded of the importance of exhausting all other options before asking staff to cancel pre-booked leave. Guidance on annual leave during the pandemic has also been re-issued (see the link in the statement).

Self-isolation

Following changes to Government guidance, advice to NHS staff  on self-isolation has also been updated.

Temporary change to fit note guidance

The Department for Work and Pensions has temporarily changed its guidance on fit notes. The guidance now states:

For Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), where employees go off sick on or after 10 December 2021, employers can only ask employees for proof of sickness (such as a fit note) after 28 days of sickness (including non-working days). Proof of sickness cannot be requested earlier than 28 days.

Your employer may update local policies to reflect this new temporary guidance.

Mandatory vaccination

Guidance (for England) on Phase 2 of Vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD)  is expected in mid-January. It will cover how employers should manage staff not vaccinated by 3 February.

The primary focus for employers in January should be encouraging staff to get vaccinated and helping them access expert advice. Employers should not start formal processes (e.g. notice of dismissal) before 3 February. While MiP expects trusts to share their process (and any new policy) with their staff side trade unions, this is an employer-led issue and staff sides should not be asked to agree processes and polices.

MiP will issue more advice on this issue in January.

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