Sickness absence and the 'fit note'

Last reviewed on 26/06/2014 09:23

Alongside your legal responsibilities for health and safety, as an employer, you have a very important role to play in managing and reducing sickness absence and creating a positive and healthy environment for employees, which in turn can positively impact your business.

Most people suffer from minor illnesses that naturally resolve themselves over the short term and may on occasion lead to brief periods of sick leave.

However, for a small number of employees, sickness absence can drift from weeks to months. This may make a return to work less likely but an early intervention by the employer will help prevent this situation from occurring.

The 'fit note'

The sick note changed to become a 'fit note' in April 2010. The fit note is intended to provide additional advice that can support both employers and employees, by helping people back to work as soon as possible. GPs can now advise that your employee is:

Unfit for work


May be fit for work, taking account of the following advice (where the GP may then advise the following)

            • A phased return to work
            • Altered hours
            • Amended duties
            • Workplace adaptations.

What do I need to do?

  • Record instances of staff absence (required in order to calculate sick pay)
  • Ensure staff are aware of the procedure for reporting absence
  • Decide if you should implement a positive attendance policy and get help
  • Ensure employees are involved in any positive attendance management decisions.

Reviewing sickness absence

  • Review attendance and absence records to decide if you have a staff attendance issue.
  • Identify your sickness absence costs and compare your performance with similar organisations using the attendance management tool.
  • Consider making small changes and implementing a staff attendance policy.
  • Vist the Healthy Working Lives 'attendance management' web pages for guidance and tools to assist in recording and managing absence and how to develop good practice.‚Äč

Further information

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on sickness absence (external link)

UK Government 'fit note' guidance and resources (external link)

Attendance management tool