London, United Kingdom (PressExposure) July 14, 2011 -- In our February newsletter we discussed the introduction of the new fit note (February Legal Update). From April 6th the standard sick note - FMFMed3 - is being replaced by a new form which allows GP s to state whether a person is fit to do limited or modified duties - the "Fit Note". It is not only GP s who will complete sick notes / fit notes, so will hospital doctors and casualty officers. In the early stages of the fit note, we anticipate that many doctors will continue to use the new fit note as if it were a sick note and simply "sign off" as they will not have received training in their completion or purpose.
As GP s and hospital doctors receive training on the new fit note, they will be less likely to simply "sign off" and more likely to indicate whether a phased return, modified hours and duties or workplace adjustments might retain an employee in work.
There is obvious benefit in moving away from the current "black and white" approach to "fit" or "unfit." Making a success of the many "grey areas" that fit notes will bring about will depend crucially upon good communication between employers, employees and certificating doctors. Where employers work with Occupational Health services, fit notes could encourage early return to work. The hazard for employers is where GP s hand down advice based purely on an employee's account and without knowledge of a role. Such advice may not be independent or well informed but tribunals are likely to take a dim view of employers who discount it.
We are happy both to provide advice and to structure services for our clients.
Where the fit note simply replaces a sick certificate and states that the person is not fit for work they should be dealt with exactly as they are at present.
The problem will be interpreting advice where an individual is deemed fit to return but with "modifications" because, as our previous newsletter pointed out, most GP s are not trained to provide specific advice. They don't typically have adequate knowledge of the workplace to give realistic and practical recommendations and so advice may either be generic or perhaps impractical in a number of cases.
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