The NEW Fit Note Rules….How does this affect your business or organisation

You might have heard that there have been changes to the fit note process in the UK recently, with the aim to reduce pressure on GPs, streamline the process for all involved, improve access to health care and encourage more supportive and empowering conversations surrounding health in the workplace.

But what does this mean for both employers and workers?

What Has Changed?

From 6 April 2022, there is no longer a requirement for GPs to sign a fit note personally as evidence of a workers sickness absence. A new set of regulations allows fit notes to be issued digitally, a practice made commonplace during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to this, the UK Government have introduced new legislation – effective from 1 July 2022 across the whole of the UK – enabling fit notes to be certified by nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and pharmacists. Previously a certified fit note was only available from a GP.

The guidance whereby a fit note can be issued remains the same – a worker may have a fit note issued in the instance where they are absent from work due to ill health for seven days or more. It acts as evidence of absence from work and can provide guidance on how a worker can be supported back to work by their employer.

So……..How Might This Affect Both Employer and Worker?

This change in process is the most significant since the introduction of fit notes in 2010.

With input from specialists (i.e. occupational therapists, nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists) dealing with specific issues, employers may see an increase in suggestions on how to support or proposed adjustments to consider in relation to a worker returning to work. With this input from the outset, it may enable workers to return to work at an earlier date, reducing overall sickness absence duration.

Employers may also benefit from more efficient communication in relation to staff absence duration, allowing for proactive rather than reactive planning when it comes to staff absence duration.

The change could also improve sickness reporting processes, as the need to be seen by a GP is eliminated (which can often cause delays). However, it is yet to be seen how the new process will look and what the timescales will be for those booking appointments.

For employees, they may welcome the change – particularly if they feel more comfortable being able to consult with an alternative healthcare practitioner – and should equally benefit from the aim to have a more streamlined process, reducing the stressors of trying to access timely GP appointments. However, there have been concerns raised in relation to the new process and that it could be open to abuse, with fit notes potentially being issued inappropriately. Should employers feel the need to seek additional, impartial medical advice, the following should be considered:

  • Justification – an employer would need to be able to demonstrate their reasoning for obtaining additional medical advice.
  • Employee consent – an employer would need to obtain written employee consent prior to seeking additional advice.
  • Cost to employer – an employer would be liable for any cost to obtain additional medical advice.

As time goes on, employers, workers and health care practitioners will all form their own opinions on whether the change to process is a positive one.

Have you experienced any of the new changes yet? Do you have a strong viewpoint on whether the change will have the desired outcome for all involved?

If you need some guidance on how to navigate the new Fit Note Process or if you have a question on any sickness, absence or people related issue; please do get in touch.

Call Tara on 07983 936747 or Email on:

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