A fit note is a medical document, compiled by a physician, which documents the health of an employee.
The fit note replaced the ‘Statement of fitness for work’ in 2010. While the Statement of fitness for work offered physicians the option of stating an employee was fit or not fit for work, fit notes have more room for detail.
Fit notes allow for a physician to state an employee ‘may be fit for work’ and gives them the option of adding provisions for the employee’s return. These ‘amendments’ to the employee’s working life could be anything from a change of work hours or duties, to extra support or equipment for the employee, and many, many more.
Fit notes give greater scope for employees who, with a statement of fitness for work, may have been declared unfit for work to return in either a complete or partial capacity to the workplace. They also give employers a greater hand in improving the working life of employees and allow them to offer greater support to their workforce.
When should I ask for a fit note?
A fit note is applicable after 8 or more consecutive days off. You can request a fit note before the 8-day period, but it may cost you.
Hospital doctors or GPs can supply the fit note, and the employee should ask for it when it is required.
The doctor should sign the fit note and the original should stay with the employee (it’s a good idea for the manager to keep a copy for the sickness and absence record though).
Fit notes are only supplied when the employee is classed as either ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’. If the employee’s health is not considered a barrier to their return to work, they won’t be issued with a fit note.
What should I do with the fit note?
The fit note gives employers a lot of useful information about ways they may be able to facilitate the employee’s return to work.
The doctor will have made their suggestions, but you are not obliged to follow their recommendations.
What you should do is speak to the employee before you make any changes. It may be that they don’t agree with the doctor’s suggestions, or they may have suggestions of their own. It is important to listen to, and consider the employee’s feelings before you make a final decision.
Another important thing to consider is whether the suggested adjustments are safe. As the employer, it is your duty to ensure any changes you make won’t put the employee in any danger, so there’s a chance you won’t be able to implement them.
If you agree with the suggestions of the fit note and are willing to put them in place, but the employee is not, you may have to start disciplinary procedures if you cannot come to an agreement to get the employee back into work.
Need more advice on the sickness and absence procedure?
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