What is the fit note?
This April saw the introduction of a new ‘fit note’ (medical statement) to replace the traditional sick note that has been used by GPs for the past 60 years. Introduced in 1948 to protect the vulnerable, the sick note system gave GPs the authoritity to sign people off work for the first six months of incapacity, before they moved into the state incapacity Benefits system.
While this approach was fit for purpose at the time, it has done little to control long-term sickness absence rates. The number of people claiming incapacity benefit in the UK has trebled to 2.7m since the 1970s and 300,000 people move out of work on to incapacity Benefits each year.
The introduction of the fit note aims to move away from the “sick-note culture” to one that encourages GPs and employers to work together to help people with a medical condition to return to work faster. Under the new fit note initiative, line managers and HR professionals will have an increased responsibility in the decisions taken to support an employee’s rehabilitation back into the workplace. While they aren’t obligated to take the GPs recommendations, they can use them to help bring the employee back into the business faster which Benefits both parties.