Workers who are off sick for longer than seven days will now receive fit notes instead of sick notes from GPs. Doctors will still be able to say someone is not fit for work, but they will also be able to spell out aspects of jobs workers can still perform. The onus will be on employers to help staff return to work in some capacity.
The Statement of Fitness for Work, fit note, is a new medical statement that doctors will now be issuing. It is relevant to all employers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. With the fit note the doctor will be able to advise their patient if they are not fit for work or a new option of may be fit for work taking account of specific advice. Patients will then be encouraged to discuss this advice with their employer to see if they can return to work.
Dr Laurence Buckman of the BMA warns, "The responsibility will be on employers to act. If a GP decides their patient is capable of some form of work, for example if they have back pain and should temporarily avoid elements of their normal job, then it will be down to the employer to be flexible enough to accommodate them. However, we think much more needs to be done to ensure employers, in particular local line managers, have enough information about the changes. Employers have a responsibility to provide adequate occupational health services and the government must encourage them to provide that if the overall plan to help more people back to work is to be truly effective. But only one worker in eight has access to an occupational health doctor."