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Changes to Fit Notes – What Employers Need to Know

Fit notes provide evidence to employers about a person’s absence and any relevant advice on how to support them to remain in or return to work. From 1st July 2022 the Department for Work and Pensions has updated the law so that fit notes can now be issued by nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors.

Changes to fit notes are being delivered in GP surgeries, hospitals and other NHS settings where healthcare professionals delivering NHS services will have access to the new fit note form. There will be a period during which both the new and previous version of the fit notes are legally valid. The alteration is set to support patients who need advice or fit notes from their healthcare professional – without having to separately see a doctor. The reform will also mean that fit notes will eventually be fully digital as they no longer need to be signed in ink.  

This significant change recognises the importance of supporting people to remain in work, while managing a health condition by providing advice to an employer about how to best support them. By leveraging the expertise of a wider range of healthcare professionals, the change aims to not only streamline the process, but improve a patient’s experience and reduce pressure on doctors. People will no longer have to be sent to their GP to have the fit note signed when they’re already receiving treatment from an alternative healthcare professional. 

The change will also aims to encourage better conversations around work and health between employers and staff by making it easier to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional. 

What a fit note will tell you:

If an employee hands you a fit note it will tell you whether, or not, they are expected to be fit for work at the end of dates specified. The fit note won’t tell you what changes to make but will give you advice about how your employee’s health affects what they can or can’t do at work.  

If your employee is assessed as may be fit for work, their fit note will help you discuss with them what these changes might be. If you can’t make any changes to take account of the advice in the fit note, you don’t have to. Although, if a few simple changes can be made it can help someone with a health condition come back to work earlier.  

5 things to do if you are given a fit note from your staff:

Check whether your employee’s healthcare professional has assessed whether or not they are fit for work. 

  • Check how long your employee’s fit note applies for, and whether they are expected to be fit for work when their fit note expires.
  • If your employee may be fit for work, discuss their fit note with them and see if you can agree any changes to help them come back to work while it lasts.
  • If your employee is not fit for work, or if they may be fit for work but you can’t agree any changes, use the fit note as evidence for your sick pay procedures.
  • Consider taking a copy of the fit note for your records (your employee should keep the original).

What the changes mean for employers:

Employer should consider reviewing their sickness policies in staff handbooks and sickness provisions in contracts of employment and update as necessary, alongside ensuring that staff are aware of their obligations when taking time off work due to sickness.

For more information about changes to fit notes and their usage within the workplace contact our expert HR team – Hertfordshire’s leading HR consultancy, bringing your business the benefits, protection and experience of an entire HR department. 

Access the Department for Work and Pensions’ Fit Note Resource here

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