Do you understand the Fit Note?

Fit Note – 5 years on

The Fit Note was introduced in 2010 and it has been in use for a little over 5 years. IOSH, the Chartered body for health and safety professionals recently conducted a study into the Fit Note titled‘Getting the best from the fit note’, which found that there is still widespread misunderstanding about the notes. 

Only a minority of Fit Notes use the “may be fit” option

Although GPs, employers and employees alike agree that the idea behind the Fit Note is good, the notes are not widely used to help employers understand what tasks the employee can do, why the employee is unable to work or when they might be ready to return to work. Only a minority of Fit Notes actually advise that a patient “may be fit” for work instead of being “unfit”.

Fit Notes give headaches to GPs and employers alike

The Fit Note seems to be giving headaches to parties on both sides. GPs find that they don’t have sufficient knowledge to make a call about the employees fitness to work whilst employers feel that “may be fit” notes put extra pressure on them to facilitate unwanted workplace adjustments.

Fit Notes are not needed to declare an employee “fit”

The name itself, Fit Note, is somewhat confusing since a Fit Note is declaring the employee unfit to all or some work. There is no “Fit” option on the note and, ironically, fit employees have no need for Fit Notes.

The name has led to a common misunderstanding among employers and employees that absent employees need to be signed “fit” for work by a doctor before they can return. There is no need for doctors to declare that an employee is fit to return and anyone can return to work as soon as the employee and employer agree that it is safe to do so – even before a Fit Note expires!

Still just a Sick Note

In this aspect the situation has not changed much from the days of the Sick Note. A Sick Note was simply a document that made the employee eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and in the same way Fit Note entitles the employee to receive SSP. Neither document means that the employee must refrain from work for its duration . If the employee recovers more quickly and feels healthy enough to work, they can of course return to work sooner. However, it is very rare that this ever happens and that is the gap that the Fit Note was meant to bridge. So far this change in mindsets has not been achieved.

Let Engage help you keep track of employees Fit Notes! Check out our excellent absence recording and management tool.