Changes to Fit Notes

July 6, 2022

Since 1 July 2022 fit notes can be certified and issued by eligible healthcare professionals (HCP). The HCPs named in legislation are registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors.

Healthcare professionals cannot issue fit notes during the first 7 calendar days of sickness absence. Employees can self-certify for this time. Employees who are sick for more than seven days can be required by their employer to provide a fit note to provide evidence about their absence and any relevant advice on how to support them in remaining or returning to work. During the first six months of an employee’s sickness absence, the healthcare professional can issue a fit note to cover a maximum of three months. Once the employee has been sick for more than six months with the same illness, then a fit note can be issued for an unlimited period of time.

It remains the case that where an employee is off for an extended period, employers should consider getting a medical report from a specialist to better understand when and how the employee might be able to return to the workplace and what accommodations the employer will need to consider. Where the employee has a qualifying disability under the Equality Act 2010, the employer will need to consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to enable the employee to continue working or to return to the workplace.

Is a fit note binding on an employer?

No. The assessment about whether an employee is not fit for work or may be fit for work (and any other advice in the fit note) is classed as advice, and it is for employers to determine whether or not to accept it.

Occasionally, an employer may believe an employee is not fit for work when they have been assessed as fit for work by their healthcare professional, or they may think that the employee could do some work when they have been assessed as ‘not fit for work’ by their healthcare professional.

In situations like this the employer is within their rights to gather other evidence about the employee’s fitness for work from other healthcare professionals. Employers can choose to give this other evidence precedence over the advice in the fit note. The employee may disagree with their employer, and it may result in the employer needing to demonstrate to an employment tribunal why the alternative source of evidence was more acceptable to them than the fit note.

For further advice on the above, or any other employment matter please contact Faye Reynolds or Mike Brady.

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