Fit notes: Guidance for managers
From 6 April 2010, GP sick notes were replaced by the 'Statement of Fitness to Work', or 'Fit Note'. Staff who have been off work sick should present the new style 'Fit Note' to their manager (or Sickness Information Coordinator) on their return to work.
There is no change to the current arrangement that a GP statement (certificate) is only required after 7 calendar days of absence. All sickness absence up to the 7th day must be self-certified by the employee using the University Self-certification form PD77.
What is different about the fit note?
The Fit Note includes a tick box for the GP to certify to the employee 'you are not fit for work' and the GP will state the period this applies and whether or not they need to assess the employee's fitness for work again at the end of this period. It they do not need to see the employee again, the employee will return to work after the statement expires, unless a further statement is submitted.
The main change is the tick box 'you may be fit for work taking account of the following advice...' The GP will then advise of changes which the employer should consider, for the period covered by the statement. The GP can advise (by ticking further boxes):
- a phased return to work
- amended duties
- workplace adaptations
- altered hours
and add other comments about what the employee can/cannot do.
The GP may tick more than one box.
The purpose of these new arrangement is to make it easier for employees with health conditions to do some work while they recover, on the premise that this helps recovery and reduces sickness absence.
What to do if your employee brings in a fit note
If you receive a fit note from an employee where the GP has ticked the box 'you may be fit for work taking account of the following advice...', you should take account of the following guidance:
- it is the University's decision on whether it can accommodate the GP's advice (ie the GP's comments are advisory, not instructions which we have to follow);
- the University has to consider whether it is practical and safe to implement the GP's advice;
- the University's insurers will expect the University to make an informed assessment of whether it is safe for the employee to return to work;
- where the GP has recommended any of phased return to work, amended duties or workplace adaptations, a referral should always be made to the University's Occupational Health Service, using the procedure outlined below;
- where the GP has recommended altered hours only (ie the employee can undertake their normal duties and work their normal volume of hours, but some modification to start/finish/rest times is recommended), the manager is expected to consider whether this can be accommodated, for the period covered by the certificate, within the resources and operational priorities of their unit. This is not a judgement about what duties the employee can safely be expected to undertake and further advice can be sought from their HR Business Partner.
If the GP has made further recommendations
Where the GP has recommended any of phased return to work, amended duties or workplace adaptations, the manager should:
- advise the employee that a referral will be made to the University's Occupational Health Service.
- check that they have the correct contact details for the employee as the Occupational Health Service may need to telephone them at home.
- instruct the employee to remain at home, on sick leave, until they are contacted by the University. The employee should not be permitted to return to work and resume their duties until this referral process has been completed and you have received advice from the Occupational Health Service.
- complete the PD42 Fit Note Referraland email this to the Occupational Health Service. You should do this at the earliest opportunity following your conversation with the employee and in any event no later than the same day to avoid an unnecessary delay in the employee returning to work following advice from the Occupational Health Service.
- the Occupational Health Service will aim to respond to such referrals before the end of the next working day. The Occupational Health Service may contact the manager to discuss what modifications can be accommodated. The Occupational Health Service may need to speak to the employee by telephone or may require him/her to come to the Occupational Health Service in person.
- the Occupational Health Service may advise the manager that the employee is fit to return to work with modifications. If the manager agrees to the recommendations of the Occupational Health Service, the manager should contact the employee to advise them of this and agree an early return to work date. If the manager does not agree with the recommendations of the Occupational Health Service, the manager should advise the Occupational Health Service and the employee and instruct the employee to remain on sick leave until the expiry of their current GP statement.
If the University decides that it cannot accommodate the GP's advice then the employee will remain signed off sick until the expiry of their current statement. They will be expected to return to work at the end of this period unless they present a further statement (fit note) from their GP.
Managers will appreciate that this arrangement is new for GPs and employers and it is not possible at this stage to assess the impact this will have on the University. It is possible that this will significantly increase the workload of the Occupational Health Service and consequently it may take several days to respond to a referral. Further guidance will be issued later in the year based on our experience of operating the new arrangements.
Guidance for Sickness Information Coordinators
If the University decides that it cannot accommodate the GP's advice then the employee will remain signed off sick until the expiry of their current statement: Sickness Information Coordinators in Colleges and Services should record this as sickness absence.
If the University is able to accommodate the GP's advice and the employee returns to work, guidance should be sought from Eloise Rokirilov (telephone 01392 723731) in the Payroll Office about how this should be recorded. Generally, where a phased return to work has been agreed, days or half days when the employee is not at work are recorded as sickness absence.