So long sicknotes, the future is fit notes! Actually, the fit note has been around for 3 years now – but must still be causing a bit of a kerfuffle, as the DWP has released some further guidance on how to use them & what they mean. So here are a few short fit note FAQs to help clear up the confusion!
Isn’t a fit note just another name for a sick note?
Not exactly. While sick notes just said someone couldn’t work for a while, the focus of a fit note is on saying what they should be able to do (although this might still state that someone is unfit for anything for a while.) So rather than just write someone off for a few weeks, the fit note offers evidence so that employers can make reasonable adjustments to get people back into work sooner.
So will it say what adjustments we need to make?
No, it doesn’t tell you what you can or should do, it just gives some advice on how someone’s health affects what they can or can’t do at work.
Do we have to take that as gospel then?
It’s just advice – you’re not bound by it, nor do you have to accept it! You’re free to gather evidence elsewhere before making any decisions, such as occupational health, GP reports etc.
What if we do need to make adjustments, but we’re not able to because we don’t have the resources, budget etc.?
Then that would suggest the adjustments aren’t reasonable for you! If it’s not reasonable then you don’t have to.Remember though that you may be able to get a few quid towards equipment or other support for employees with a disability or health condition, from Access to Work.
Also, you need to agree any adjustments with the employee, so if that isn’t possible either, then you can consider the employee to be unfit for work.
Wouldn’t that mean that the employee has to get a new fit note saying that?
No, there’s no need! There’s also no need for someone to have a new fit note that says when they are fully fit to return to work. Although there is an expiry date on the note, they can come back before then if they feel up to it.
But then our Employers Liability insurance won’t be valid!
Yes it will – don’t panic! Although it’s a good idea to do an appropriate Risk Assessment to be on the safe side.
Can we keep the fit note on file?
You can keep a copy of it, but the original belongs to the employee so they should keep it themselves.
Where can I find out more details?
You can download info leaflets from the GOV.uk website – there are different ones for employers & line managers, employees, Welsh people…
Ta. Can I go & get a cup of tea now?
Certainly can, & have a biscuit as well, why don’t you.