• Fit For Purpose?
  • May 6, 2010 | Authors: Anne Davies; Michelle Haste
  • Law Firm: Crowell & Moring - London Office
  • The Statement of Fitness for Work, or 'fit note', is a new Medical Statement that General Practitioners will issue from 6 April 2010. It replaces 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.

    Under the new medical statement, the doctor will be able to advise that: the employee is 'not fit for work'; or the employee ';may be fit for work', and give advice about support that could help the employee return to work.

    The fit note will also include: space for the doctor to give general advice about the impact of the illness or injury; and tick boxes for the doctor to suggest, if necessary, common ways in which the employer could support return to work. The doctor will therefore be able to advise that the employee may be fit for work if they think that returning to work -- with support from the employer -- will help the employee.

    A review of the new medical fit note will be carried out after it has been in place for 12 months, but there are some obvious wrinkles that will need to be ironed out in the early days:

    • The British Medical Association supports the changes but is concerned that doctors might not be equipped with the right knowledge of a patient's workplace in order to make informed recommendations.
    • There has also been some expressed concerns that employers may feel forced to accept an early return to work.
    • Similarly there is the potential for disputes between employer and employee as to what is required.
    • Finally, there has also been concern about the impact on differing size organisations --large employers may have occupational health advisers, whereas small organisations may struggle.

    A challenging time ahead for all employers, particularly small employers who do not have the resources or access to occupational health departments or specialists.

    Government advice to employers can be accessed here:- http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/fitnote-employer-guide.pdf