Fitnotearticle by wpr1947

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									                                                   The new “fit note”

For years employers have had to contend with vague and often illegible sick notes from GPs saying that their
employee is suffering from “stress” or “neck pain”. The employee was often signed off for 2 or 3 weeks and there
was very little an employer could do about it. All this has changed with the introduction of the Statement of Fitness
for Work, or “fit notes”, introduced on 6 April 2010.

On this new form, GPs will now have two options:

         Not fit for work – this means the GP believes the employee has a health condition which prevents them
          working for a certain period of time. This is similar to the old sick note.

         May be fit for work taking account of the following advice – the GP will choose this option where he
          believes that the employee’s condition does not necessarily stop them returning to work altogether. If this
          option is chosen the GP can then suggest adjustments which could be made to the job to enable the
          employee to return, e.g. a phased return to work, amended duties, altered hours or workplace
          adaptations. The doctor can go on to add information on the functional effects of the employee’s
          condition, and can also suggest that an occupational health professional assess the employee.

The advice given on the statement is not binding and it is up to the employer whether he acts on the advice. The
new form should however enable employers and employees to work together to try and help the employee return
to work earlier, and hopefully reduce unnecessary sickness absence.

What should employers do?

When you receive a fit note you should discuss the GP’s advice with your employee straight away. You will also
need to consider how it affects the job and the workplace, including the effect on fellow employees. If a return to
work is possible, you should agree when the employee will return and what amendments or adjustments will be
made to the role. You should monitor the situation and set a date for reviewing how the employee is getting on.

If the adjustments suggested by the GP are not possible, the employee will remain off sick and will be entitled to sick
pay in accordance with their contract and/or SSP rules. For instance the GP may suggest that you remove heavy
lifting from the employee’s job but this may not be possible if this is a fundamental part of his role. In this situation, the
employer can regard the statement as if the doctor has said the employee was not fit for work. The employee does
not need to return to their doctor for a new statement to confirm this.

There may be good reasons why you cannot follow the doctor’s advice, e.g. health and safety guidelines or
regulations that the doctor may not be aware of. However, you should always bear in mind that if the employee
has a condition covered by the Disability Discrimination Act, you are still under a duty to make reasonable
adjustments.

It remains to be seen how fit notes will work in practice and it is hoped that they will cut down on sickness absence
and benefit both employees and business. Employmentbuddy.com has a range of policies, guidance notes and
letters dealing with long and short term sickness absence and disability discrimination, setting out in detail how fit
notes will impact on sickness absence policy.



Rachel Clayfield,
Associate
Clarkslegal LLP

								
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