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Fit note: guidance for employers

Fit note: guidance for employers

It is widely accepted that employee wellbeing is crucial for both the employees concerned and the organisation as a whole. However, navigating issues relating to employee absence can be challenging for employers. This blog is intended to provide guidance for employers on understanding fit notes. It will also provide an overview of the steps that an employer can take to make the sickness absence process go as smoothly as possible.

 

The purpose of a fit note

 

Fit notes, also known as “Statements of Fitness for Work” or simply “sick notes,” play a pivotal role in the employer-employee relationship when an employee experiences health issues that affect their ability to undertake the role in question.

A fit note is a medical certificate issued by a healthcare professional, providing information about an employee’s fitness for work. Fit notes replaced the traditional sick note. A section of the fit note asks the healthcare professional whether the individual is able to undertake work and, if so, the nature of the adjustments that are recommended to make a return to work possible e.g. amended duties, altered hours etc.

 

Key responsibilities of employers

 

1. Receiving and recording fit notes

 

Employers should establish an effective system for receiving, recording and responding to fit notes promptly. It is crucial to maintain confidentiality and handle these documents securely. The fit note allows employers to gain insights into the employee’s condition, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding adjustments and support.

 

2. Carefully consider the recommendations

 

As said above, the fit note provides important information on what tasks the employee can or cannot perform. Employers should carefully review this section to understand the limitations expressed in the certificate. Open communication with the employee is likely to be useful to clarify any ambiguities.

 

3. Adjustments and Support

 

Upon receiving a fit note, employers should carefully consider adjustments which would support the employee’s return to work. An aspect of that process is exploring whether or not such adjustments would be feasible. Such changes may involve temporary changes to their duties, working hours, or the workplace environment. Engaging in a constructive dialogue with the employee is important as is the need to properly consider any potential adjustments.

 

4. Regular Communication

 

Maintaining open lines of communication is crucial during an employee’s absence due to illness. Employers should check in with the employee periodically to express concern, offer support, and discuss any changes in their condition or anticipated return to work.

Determining next steps can be particularly challenging in circumstances when there has been a prolonged period of absence. Keeping in touch can reduce the problems that may otherwise arise. For more on this topic read our blog Long term sick – keeping in touch. For more information on Returning to work after sickness read our blog

5. Engage with Occupational Health

 

For complex cases or prolonged absences, employers may consider involving occupational health services. These professionals can provide additional insights into the employee’s condition and offer recommendations for effective workplace adjustments. Collaborating with occupational health can contribute to a successful return to work strategy. For more information on the role of occupational health, read our blog Can occupational health overrule gp?

Legal Considerations relating to fit notes

 

1. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

 

Employers need to be aware of the statutory sick pay regulations. An employee who is eligible for SSP is entitled to receive financial support during their absence due to illness. Employers should keep accurate records of sick pay and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

 

2. Avoiding discrimination

 

Employees on a period of absence may be disabled or may become so over time.  Employers have certain obligations to employees who are disabled for the purposes of the legislation. An example of such an obligation is the duty to make reasonable adjustments. In such circumstances, it is important to know when an employee is likely to be regarded as a disabled person, and to consider what steps should be taken to ensure that they are treated fairly.

Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law and assists both employees and employers.

If you  are an organisation in need of HR consultancy and training, on a range of topics such as managing sickness absence, or you want assistance with Defending an Employment Tribunal Claim we can help.

If you are an individual, who would like advice on a matter concerning long term absence or you would like to discuss bringing an Employment Tribunal Claim, we would be pleased to hear from you.

Call us on 020 3923 8616 or via email on info@plotkinandchandler.com for a no obligation consultation.

 

 

 

 

 

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