New Guidance from the DWP for the use of Fit Notes

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Many people are aware that in April 2010 the sick note was replaced by the "Fit Note". However, you may not know that in March 2013 the Department for Work and Pensions released updated guidance about the use of Fit Notes.

Sick note replaced by Fit Note

Points to consider following the updated guidance include:

  • Doctors cannot issue fit notes for the first 7 days of sickness absence, employees can self-certify for this period. If the employer requires medical evidence for the first 7 days of sickness absence, it is the employer’s responsibility to arrange and pay for this.
  • The Fit Note may give advice about possible changes that could be made to accommodate the return to work for the employee, but the employer does not need to make any of the suggested changes in order to facilitate a quicker return to work. (Disabled employees would still have the right to reasonable adjustments.)
  • If the employer cannot make the changes suggested in the Fit Note, then the note can be treated as if it says the employee is not fit for work.
  • An employee can come back to work, even before the sick note expires, should they chose to do so, they do not have to return to their doctor when they feel ready to go back to work.

The guidance also includes:

  • Examples of how the Fit Note works
  • An explanation of what all of the sections in the Fit Note mean
  • Ideas for both employers and employees regarding possible changes to accommodate the advice in the Fit Note, and
  • Clarification about the legal status of the Fit Note

The principle underlying the Fit Note is that parties should try to focus on what a person can do, rather than what they can’t. The Fit Note should be about someone’s general fitness for work and is not tied to their most recent job, allowing flexibility to discuss what changes could help someone return work. Have a look at the revised guidance provided by the Department of Work and Pensions, here: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/

For further legal advice on the Fit Note, please do not hesitate to contact our employment team.


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