As most employers will be aware, a “Statement of Fitness for Work” (also known as a “fit note”) is a written document that gives a medical opinion on an individual’s fitness for work.
Once an employee has been off sick for more than seven calendar days, they are required to provide their employer with a fit note as evidence of their inability to work and in order to obtain statutory sick pay (SSP). The fit note sets out that an employee is unfit for work, the reason for this and the expected date of return. Alternatively a fit note may set out that an employee may be fit for work subject to the employer making adjustments to assist the employee with carrying out their duties.
Previously only doctors were able to certify fit notes. However, new legislation has been implemented meaning that from 1 July 2022 a wider group of healthcare professionals are able to legally issue fit notes provided they work in a hospital or general practice.
This latest amendment is in addition to the change in legislation introduced by the government in April 2022 enabling digital fit notes to be issued, rather than requiring a fit note to be signed in person.
The new regulations confirm that registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists can now certify fit notes. It is hoped that this change, together with the introduction of digital fit notes, will ease pressure on GPs, reducing their administrative workloads and improving patient care, while modernising the procedure for certifying sickness.
The practical implications of the recent changes for employers are likely to be limited. Employers should ensure that line managers within their business understand the changes to the rules on fit notes and do not reject fit notes which have been issued by a healthcare professional other than a GP. Employers should also consider whether policies on sickness absence need to be updated to take account of these changes.
Employers may find that more practical advice on when an employee may be fit for work is provided in the future taking into account the nature of the professionals able to certify fit notes. Taking this into account, the Department for Work and Pensions has also issued updated guidance for employers and line managers in relation to fit notes which encourages employers to consider practical ways that employers can support employees to return to work.
The updated guidance can be viewed here.
Taylor Walton’s employment team is able to assist you with any queries that you may have in relation to managing sickness absence in the workplace.