Recruitment and Employment Consultants

Fit notes

This month, with paper sick notes being replaced with electronic fit notes, Jane Gower, Director of HR consultancy, JGA, comments on the new scheme, which sees GPs determine whether a person is fit to return to work:

“For years the sick note has caused frustration amongst businesses, with employees certified as unfit for work prevented from a prompt return to their job.


“The new fit note scheme, which provides advice to employers and employees on how an appropriate return to work can be achieved, should be welcomed by businesses as a vehicle to determine what jobs people are fit to do as opposed to what they cannot do.

“While the new fit note system should be celebrated for getting employees back to work more swiftly, its introduction has been met with some scepticism.

“Under the new scheme GPs will have to determine on what basis a person is fit to return to their respective job. Yet, with GP consultation time restricted, there are concerns as to the lack of time available to obtain information about what tasks patients’ work involves and assess their relevant fitness.

“With GPs at times unable to fully determine what someone does at work, it could be hard for them to confirm what someone is fit to do and that might cause problems.

“GPs’ current lack of training on occupational health issues, which are fundamental in deciding whether an employee is fit to return to their job, is also of concern to businesses.

“The Government has issued guidance for GPs about the role of occupational health in returning employees to work, but there are increasing reservations over the consistency of approach by doctors administrating the new fit note system. There is growing fear amongst businesses that GPs will recommend a course of action that is costly or not feasible.

“At least a quarter of our business is concerned with occupational health issues and I would recommend that all companies seek advice from occupational health professionals when managing the new fit note system. At this time, it is also important for organisations to review how they manage sickness absence and their return to work policies, and ensure that senior managers are trained in the application of the new guidelines.”

For more information about JGA, please call 01425 619417