In 2010 Fit notes replaced sickness certificates, with the idea being to shift the focus so that rather than considering how unwell the employee is, instead the question is how well are they to work!
However, a few years on how effective are they and are they being used to their full potential by both GPs and line managers?
Well a study of over 900 GPs, patients and employers commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and conducted by Nottingham University, has found that fit notes are not being used to their full potential to manage sick leave.
The study revealed that the problem stemmed from a lack of understanding about how to use fit notes. This was partly due to GPs having limited consultation time with their patients due to excessive workloads, but also because of a lack of clarity as to the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees when using fit notes. The recommendation therefore, is for both GPs and employers to receive specific training in this area, and guidance as to best practice in the completion, timing, sharing and application of fit notes.
In the meantime it is advisable upon receipt of a fit note, to check to see whether the employee’s doctor has assessed that they are not fit for work, or may be fit for work. Then have a look to see how long the fit note applies for, and whether the employee is expected to be fit for work when their fit note expires. If your employee may be fit for work, then discuss their fit note with them and see if you can agree any changes to help them come back to work during the duration of the fit note. If however your employee is not fit for work, or if they may be fit for work but you can’t agree any changes, then you can use the fit note as evidence for your sick pay procedures. Finally it is also good practice to take a copy of the fit note for your records.
Employers and GPs may wish to take a look at www.gov.uk where guidance notes may be found, but if you would prefer to speak with a specialist adviser, then please feel free to give us a call!