April 18, 2013

Employment News Update – DWP new fit note guidance

The DWP has issued new guidance for employers and doctors on the use of fit notes, which focuses on emphasising looking at what a person can do rather than what they cannot do, and advises doctors on how to give the most useful advice as to what patients can do at work and how they can return to the workplace as soon as possible. [read more] The guidance clarifies that the fit note is intended to cover general fitness for work and not fitness in respect of a particular job, which allows flexibility to discuss changes which could be made to enable someone to undertake some form of work, even if not their current job. It emphasises that doctors cannot provide fit notes for the first 7 days of absence and if the employer wants a doctor’s note, it is the employer’s responsibility to pay for this. Guidance also includes:-

  • Improved question and answer sections based on common queries.
  • An explanation of how a fit note indicates whether a person is expected to be fit for work when it expires.
  • Ideas for patients and employers about possible changes which might be needed to implement the advice in the fit note.
  • Clarification as to the legal status of the fit note in relation to sick pay (an employer can refuse to pay sick pay despite an employee having a fit note), situations where an employer cannot make any changes, and non-medical problems at work.

The original guidance which was issued 3 years ago about fit notes and how they differed from sick notes focused on what the patient could not do. In contrast, the new guidance focuses on what the person can do.

This legal update is provided for general information purposes only and should not be applied to specific circumstances without prior consultation with us.

For further details on any of the issues covered in this update please contact Gemma Ospedale, Partner in Employment on 020 7583 2222.

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