Refashioning the old sick note as a fit note, for GPs to issue when a patient is, in their assessment, not fit for work, has not solved the problem of a ‘fit note culture’ for many employers. This is a potentially explosive matter, taking in issues around employee discipline as well as workplace harassment and unfair dismissal.
A recent Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) survey has revealed that over 75 per cent of GPs feel obliged to issue fit notes for reasons that are not strictly medical. They also felt unequipped to deal with workplace issues that patients bring to them. The whole switch in emphasis from sick notes and certification to gauging someone’s fitness for work, and the fit note system, was designed to give employers the responsibility of managing their employees’ return to work. But this is where difficulties can arise.
“Getting employees back into work can be tricky and complex”, Charlotte Gallagher of, Hale-based, P3 People Management remarks. “But there are also situations where making simple changes or adjustments can really help in getting someone who maybe isn’t 100 per cent better, back into a work routine. Research suggests this will actually help their recovery”.
Clearly, businesses should prioritise seeking out the right kind of professional guidance and assistance when it comes to issues around fit notes and getting their employees back into work.
“Working can be good for your health”, Charlotte says. “A properly motivated, functioning workforce is obviously good for a business’ own healthy prospects. Therefore, properly managing a return to work is vital”.
Both Acas and the government have guidelines for employee support when it comes to illness, fit notes and looking at the alternatives to getting employees back to work. The fit note gives GPs the option to state how an employee’s illness will affect their ability to work, and how an employee might be fit for work providing certain advice is followed.
“The fit note can be a useful tool in managing workplace absence through illness”, Charlotte concludes. “It has to be approached sensitively and appropriately. It is also important not to see it as an obstacle but an opportunity”.
If you would to discuss the management of absence in your workplace, please call P3 People Management on 0161 941 2426.
For more of Charlotte Gallagher’s views on this issue please read her LinkedIn post by clicking on the link below;
How Can Employers Manage Fit Note Issues?