Sick note to fit note - helping people stay in work
In the UK, on the 6 April 2010, the format of medical statements - also known as medical certificates or sick notes - will change. Medical statements are issued by doctors to employees when they are ill or injured. They are commonly used by employers as evidence for sick pay purposes.
With the current statement, doctors describe an individual's condition and indicate whether or not they are fit to work.
So the sick note will change and become the 'fit note'.
The new statement - known as a statement of fitness for work or 'fit note' - will mean doctors can advise that the patient either:
- is not fit for work
- may be fit for work
Evidence shows that work is generally good for your health and that often going back to work can actually aid a person's recovery. On the other hand, staying off work can lead to long-term absence and job loss with the risk of isolation, loss of confidence, mental health issues, de-skilling and social exclusion.
The new 'fit note' can help. Doctors will be able to advise people who are on sick leave for over 7 days on whether, with extra support from their employer, they could return to work earlier.
A doctor will give a 'may be fit for work' statement if they think that the employee's health condition may allow them to work - as long as the employer gives them the appropriate support.
If a doctor uses this option, they will give advice about the effects of the patient's health condition and, if appropriate, some suggestions about the types of adjustment or adaptations the employer could consider making to help the employee back to work.
While employers won't have to act on the doctor's advice in a 'may be fit for work' statement, it may help you make simple and practical adjustments to help your employee return to work and reduce unnecessary sickness absence.
If for any reason you can't make the changes necessary to support your employee's return to work, you should - for sick pay purposes - consider the statement as if the doctor had advised that your employee is 'not fit for work'.
Employers' obligations to pay statutory sick pay and make reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 will not change.
- UK Department for Work and Pensions website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/series/fit-note
- UK Working for Health website - Information on the reform of the medical statement: www.dwp.gov.uk/health-work-and-well-being
- Full text of the UK regulation: Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/137)
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