No more sick notes from today


April 6 2010 is the day that doctors will no longer issue sick notes for employees who are ill or have been injured. From today the new Statement of Fitness for Work - already dubbed the 'fit note' – will be introduced and will apply to all workers across the UK.

The new system should be fairer to both employers and employees after a research report found that so called 'sick days' are costing the UK economy £100bn a year.

Now doctors are able to give more useful information and advice on whether or not an employee can return to work.

Previously doctors could either say 'you should refrain from work' or 'you need not refrain from work'. But now new options have been introduced which allow doctors to say a patient is 'not fit for work' or 'may be fit for work taking account of the following advice'.

Professor Steve Field of the Royal College of General Practitioners said: "The launch of fit notes is going to be revolutionary because it will change the whole culture and we know that keeping people in work helps their physical and mental wellbeing."

How will it help you as an employer?

Often employees are signed off sick when they are still able to manage some tasks assigned to their job, and a doctor can advise you in a 'may be fit for work' statement how you could make simple and practical adjustments which could reduce unnecessary sickness leave and bring your employee back into the workplace.

These could include a phased return to work, altered hours, a change to duties or adaptations made to the workplace.

Katja Hall, director of employment policy at the Confederation of British Industry said: "This is a change that employers will welcome. All too often a person is signed off sick when they are able to manage some forms of their work."

How will it help you as an employee?

Studies have shown that for many employees going to work is about far more than earning a wage. When you're off sick, particularly for a long period of time, you can feel isolated, suffer a loss of confidence, feel that you have lost your skills and even suffer from mental health issues like depression.

The 'may be fit for work' statement will mean that you may be able to return to work with reduced hours or lighter duties whilst you recover from an injury or long-term illness, thus reducing the risk of mental health issues.

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