New Legislation Permits Fit Notes to be Certified by Healthcare Professionals Other Than Doctors
When an employee is absent from work for more than seven days due to illness, their absence needs to be certified by a Statement of Fitness for Work (known as a fit note). A fit note is an official written statement from a registered healthcare professional which gives the healthcare professionals’ medical opinion on a person's fitness for work.
From 1 July 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions has updated the law relating to fit notes, so that they can now be issued and certified by: nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists, in addition to doctors. The idea behind this change is to relieve the administrative burden on doctors and to remove unnecessary bureaucracy. The healthcare professional who issues the fit note will still need to conduct an assessment of the individuals’ fitness for work; it is not possible to obtain a fit note on request or ‘over the counter.’
It is interesting to note that this is the second change the Government has made to fit notes this year, with the first being that from 6 April 2022 fit notes can be issued digitally. Prior to this, sick notes had to be signed in ‘wet ink’ by a doctor.
Practically speaking, if you receive a fit note signed by one of the healthcare professionals listed above, you as the employer, should do the following:
- Check whether the healthcare professional has assessed whether or not the employee is fit for work;
- Check how long your employee’s fit note applies for;
- If your employee is fit for work, discuss their fit note with them and see if you can agree any changes to assist them in returning to the workplace;
- If the employee is not fit for work, use the fit note as evidence for your sick pay procedures; and
- Make a copy of the fit note for your own records (the employee should keep the original copy).
The Government has produced detailed guidance on fit notes for employers which can be found here. It will certainly be interesting to see whether this change in the law results in more fit notes being issued.
In light of the most recent changes to fit notes, employers should consider reviewing and updating their sickness absence policies to ensure that they accord with the changes noted above.
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If you have any queries relating to this article, or require any advice on issues you may be facing in the employment sector, please contact Hannah Morrow.