A recent change to the Fit Note
From 1 July 2022, fit notes can now be certified by a wider range of healthcare professionals. These professionals are nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists as well as GP’s. The requirement for the healthcare professional to sign the fit note in ink has been removed and replaced by the issuer’s name and profession.
What is a Fit Note?
People can only be given a fit note if their healthcare professional considers their fitness for work is impaired.
Each organisation will have their own procedure for informing about absences from work due to sickness. Notification of absence is important because it ties in with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and with occupational sick pay. Occupational sick pay is paid by organisations that provide a benefit over and above SSP.
The employer should review the fit note. If the employee’s fit note says that they are NOT fit for work, this is evidence for the employer’s sick pay procedure. The fit note will state how long the employee will not be fit for work.
If the employee’s fit note says that they MAY be fit for work, the employer and employee should discuss whether there are any changes which could help them return to work. It may be necessary to carry out a risk assessment (e.g., if it states that the employee should avoid lifting, the employer would be liable if they gave them work that involved lifting and handling). If the employer cannot agree to any changes, then the fit note should be treated as if it says that the employee is not fit for work.
The gov.uk website sets out five things an employer should do:
- Check whether the employee’s healthcare professional has assessed that they are not fit for work or may be fit for work;
- Check how long the employee’s fit note applies for and whether they are expected to be fit for work when their fit note expires;
- If the employee may be fit for work, discuss the fit note and see if you can agree any changes to help their return to work while it lasts;
- If the employee is not fit for work or if they may be fit for work, but you cannot agree to any changes, use the fit note as evidence for your sick pay procedures;
- Take a copy of the fit note for your records (the employee should keep the original).
Keep in mind:
- Supporting someone with a health condition to return to work can save money and minimise disruption;
- Employees may return to work before they are 100% fit – work may even aid their recovery;
- Access to Work can help employees with a disability or health condition. This includes paying towards equipment or support.
Self-certifying for sickness absence that is 7 days or less, including weekends, means that a fit note is not required. The employer normally provides a form for an employee to self-certify. To claim Statutory Sick Pay, you must have been off work for more than 3 days in a row to be eligible. An on-line form is available for employees to complete on the website gov.uk.
Return to work meeting
It is good practice for employers to hold a Return to Work (RTW) meeting with employees who have been absent due to sickness. This is not a casual ‘how are you feeling’ chat, but a more sit-down and talk. This is an opportunity for a people manager to understand the reason for absence and to discuss what support, if any, may be required, and to bring the employee up to date on work matters whilst they’ve been away.
If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.
T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.
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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, and small businesses, from recruitment through to exit.