Unions are telling public sector workers they can stay off work for 28 days without providing sick notes sparking concerns that new Covid rules could worsen staff shortages.
Previously employers could ask for a sick note after an employee took a week off sick but this was pushed back to 28 days to free up GPs so they could deliver vaccines.
Staff shortages caused by the Omicron Covid variant have already caused more than 20 NHS trusts to declare critical incidents with fears schools will soon return to online teaching.
MPs have called for the Government to reverse the sick note rule change with fears it could make the staffing crisis worse with the possibility of thousands electing to stay home, reports The Telegraph.
Public sector union Unison 7issued a note to its members telling them: “ The UK Government has made a temporary change to the provision of ‘fit notes’ until January 27 2022.
“If you go off sick on or after December 10 2021, employers can only ask employees for proof of sickness (such as a fit note) after 28 days of sickness (including non-working days).”
Unite told members: “Proof of sickness cannot be requested earlier than 28 days”.
It came as Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told Sky News that a growing number of doctors and support staff are isolating or have Covid.
He said: “We’ve got very significant pressures in general practice, which are long-standing of course but are made considerably worse by the Covid pandemic, and particularly by this Omicron variant.”
School leaders have spoken of their concerns that staff shortages could worsen in the new term and cause further disruption to children’s education.
Some schools are reporting that up to one in five staff members could be missing following the Christmas holidays.