Sick Note to Fit Note

Last reviewed on 31/10/2016 15:56

On 6 April 2010 the sick note changed to become a fit note. This page provides information, advice and direction for employers who may have staff presenting with a fit note and for employees who are issued with a fit note by their GP.

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Guide for employers

Sick notes (or Medical Statements) are the forms issued by doctors to people when they are ill or injured. Full guidance for employers on the new fit note system is issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (external site).

Many people with health conditions can, with some basic support from their employer, work as they recover from their condition. To help more people get the support they need to get back to work, the new fit note system will mean that doctors can advise that your employee is either unfit for work or may be fit for work.

A doctor may give a ‘may be fit for work’ statement if they think that their patient’s health condition may allow them to work if they get suitable support from their employer.

If your employee is too ill to work, the doctor will advise this just like with the sick note.

A doctor may recommend an occupational health assessment where they feel your employee’s condition is complex and/or work may be a contributory factor. It is your decision whether to act on this advice. Free and confidential advice can be obtained from a healthy working lives occupational health specialist adviser on 0800 019 2211.

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What’s changing?

The changes to the form allow a doctor to provide more information on your employee’s condition and how they might be able to return to work The main changes are:

  • doctors will no longer issue statements saying someone is fit for work
  • a new option for a doctor to advise if your employee may be fit for work with some support
  • more space for a doctor to provide information on how your employee’s condition will effect what they do
  • helpful tick boxes for doctors to use to suggest common ways to help a return to work (external link to PDF)
  • the maximum duration that a medical statement can be issued for has been reduced from six months to three months.

What stays the same?

  • the form can still be used as evidence for why an employee cannot work due to an illness or injury
  • the Statement is still not required until after the 7th calendar day of sickness
  • the information on the form is still advice to your employee; it is not binding on you
  • the requirements for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay have not changed; the HMRC website carries information relating to Statutory Sick Pay (external site), and they also have a helpline: 08457 143 143

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A guide for employees

With your employer’s support, the fit note will help you return to work sooner by providing more information about the effects of your illness or injury. The new fit note is called the statement of fitness for work and will be issued in Scotland, England and Wales.

The main changes are:

  • your doctor will be able to say if they think you are ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’
  • your doctor can add more advice to the note which will give your employer advice on how simple changes to the job you do may allow you to return to work earlier
  • there will be fewer types of medical statements issued by GPs.

Further guidance for employees and patients on the new fit note system is issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (external site). An example of the new fit note can be viewed on the Department of Work and Pensions website (external link to PDF).

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How the changes will help employers and employees

Research shows that long periods out of work can lead to worse health, while working can be good for your physical and mental health and well-being. The longer individual is absent through illness, the lower are the chances of them returning to work.

The new fit note is intended for both employees and employers by helping people back to work as soon as possible and is intended to provide additional advice that can support employee’s and employers.

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Further advice and information on the fit note

For expert, free and confidential advice on all matters relating to occupational health and sickness absence, email your query now, or call our Adviceline on 0800 019 2211.

For help and advice on avoiding and/or managing disputes visit the Acas website (external site) or contact them via their helpline on 08457 474747. Acas also have a number of sickness absence and management guides available for businesses and employees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides extensive information on managing sickness absence, including factsheets for workers and guides for safety representatives. All are available to download free from the HSE website(external site).

Information about company sick pay rights (external site)

Information about statutory sick pay rights (external site).

Further information on why the sick note has been changed can be found on the department for Work and Pensions website within the Employer’s guidance (external site).

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Supporting employees on long term sickness absence

Fit for Work Scotland is a free, confidential advice and support service to help manage long term sickness absence. Employers worried about their employees and GPs concerned about their patients can, with consent, refer them to the service (online referral is quick and easy). Provided by NHS Scotland the service offers expert support, assessment and back-to-work advice.

Visit Fit for Work Scotland or call the Adviceline to discuss your options 0800 019 2211.

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