Are you ready for the 'fit note'?
As most of us in the payroll and human resources (HR) business are aware, the traditional ‘sick note’, otherwise known as a Doctors Medical Certificate, was replace in April this year by the ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’ (Med 3), also known as the ‘fit note’.
This new certificate gives the doctor the opportunity to advise the employee that they are either:
o unfit for work
o may be fit for work
The new option of ‘may be fit for work’ means that fewer employees will be ‘signed off’, when they could possibly do some, or all, of their entire job, with support from their employer.
This will mean the employer discussing with the employee:
o a phased return to work
o reduced hours
o amended duties
o workplace adaption’s
o a combination of the above
However, the GP’s advice on the fit note is not binding. If the employee or employer does not agree with the fit note’s reasonable adjustments, the employee can remain off sick until the expiry of the fit note.
Good practice is to discuss the issue of pay, particularly where there is no contractual sick pay. However, the employer’s responsibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will not change. SSP will be still payable under the current rules for a sickness absence of four days or more where the employee meets the qualifying conditions.
If doctor has advised that an employee may be fit for work, it does not automatically mean they can return to work. The employee could remain off sick because the employer is unable to provide the necessary support. The employer should consider the advice on the statement in such a case as, ‘not fit for work’.
The employer and employee will need to consider the financial impact where the employee is supported back to work by reducing their hours, and if an enhanced SSP supplement is paid. Any issue related to this should be discussed with HMRC on 08457 143143.
The introduction of the fit note has not been universally welcomed, as there is concern that GP’s are not occupational health specialists. GPs therefore do not have the knowledge of an individual business, to make recommendations about adaptations to the workplace. From an employer’s perspective, there is also an implication under the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) of not implementing GP’s advice.
More information can be accessed by logging onto the DWP website http://www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/
Your software provider will be best able to offer advice on maintaining any Occupational Sickness Pay schemes you may be operating along with sickness monitoring, which may include workflows, triggers and the Bradford Factor. If you think your current software may not be able to cope with these changes, contact Safe Computing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.safe-ems.co.uk and www.safe-tempestsuite.co.uk to find out more about our products and services.
By Tamara Pattman and Bonnie Holland