Fitness for Work
The Statement of Fitness for Work, or 'fit note', is a Medical Statement that GPs issue. It replaced the old 'sick note' and aims to focus on what an employee may be able to do at work rather than what they cannot do. From July 2012 GP's may start to give patients computer-completed fit notes, rather than handwritten fit notes for a period of sickness absence greater than seven days. All the information included on a handwritten fit note will be on the computer completed note; however, handwritten fit notes will still be used by hospital doctors. By early 2012 most GP's will be using the electronic version of the fit note.
What's different about the fit note?
In the past GPs have either said that 'you should refrain from work' or 'you need not refrain from work'. The fit note offers an option - 'may be fit for work taking account of the following advice'. When ticking this option the GP should consider fitness for work in general, not fitness for a specific job that the employee is doing.
A GP can suggest ways of helping an employee get back to work. This might mean discussing:
- a phased return to work
- flexible working
- amended duties
- workplace adaptations
The GP can also provide general details of the functional effect of the individual's condition.
Why have the option fit for some work?
For many employees work means a lot more than just their salary. Studies show that work is good for health; and prolonged sickness absence can produce its own set of problems, such as:
- loss of confidence
- mental health issues
- social exclusion
Many employers recognise that reducing levels of long-term ill health is about developing a partnership between the line manager, the individual, the GP, occupational health and the HR department.
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