**Please note that from 1st July 2022, fit notes can be certified and issued by nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors.  The aim is to support and empower better conversations about work and health between employers and staff by making it easier to get this advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional. 

You can also read the full guidance here: Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers – GOV.UK ( **

GP sick notes have been replaced by ‘fit notes’ with effect from 6th April 2010. Previously a GP’s sick note would simply state what condition an individual was suffering from, and whether they were fit for work. The new fit note aims to provide more information about how the condition affects the individual, and how they might return to work, with appropriate support from you their employer.

What are the changes?

The main changes are:
• Removal of the fit for work option
• A new format containing two options: ‘unfit for work’ and ‘may be fit for work taking account of the following advice’
Doctors also have the option to indicate whether a patient may benefit from changes such as a phased return to work, altered hours, amended duties and/or workplace adaptations.

What stays the same?

The note can still be used as evidence as to why an employee is unable to work due to an illness or injury
• The fit note is still not required until after the 7th calendar day of sickness
• The requirements for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay remain unchanged

How can this help your Business?

• Fewer employees will be “signed off” work when they could possibly do some or all of their job with some support from you

What should employers do if the doctor has indicated ‘may be fit for work’?

Consider the doctor’s comments and talk to your employee. If a return to work is possible agree temporary changes to the job or hours, together with clarifying the support you will provide and its duration. In most cases these will be temporary measures; make sure that you and the employee are clear about how long these will be in place for, that you review them regularly and that they are well documented.

If the employee cannot then return to normal duties, it may be necessary to discuss further temporary measures or the long term effects of their health condition on their job. If you have access to an occupational health provider you may want to discuss it with them too.

Is the GP’s advice re changes to work binding?

No. This is about giving you greater flexibility and better information to manage sickness absence.
It’s your choice after discussing the statement with your employee, how to act on the doctor’s advice. Consider whether the suggestions of the GP are in fact feasible.

In consultation with your employee, you will be best placed to make the decision as to whether you can accommodate any changes to facilitate a return to work. In the event that you are unable to facilitate a change or adjustment, the statement will take effect as if the individual is “not fit for work”, so that there is no need for them to re-visit the GP.

What should an employer do if an employee wishes to return to work contrary to the fit note?

As an Employer you should take care in situations where an employee expresses a wish to return to work but their GP has stated that they are not fit to work. In such circumstances it is advisable to liaise with occupational health practitioners if available and ensure that the adjustments would be considered safe.

Also speak with us. There may be a need to individually risk assess the employee and record the findings. Conversely, situations may arise where you and the GP believe that the employee can return to work, whether with adjustments or not, and the employee does not wish to do so.

In these circumstances you should invite the employee to discuss their concerns, and obtain occupational health advice to support the fact that a return to work is appropriate and safe.
Remember Occupational advice is available through People Business should you need specialist support.

Going forward?

• Line managers play a pivotal role in helping get your employees back to work. Make sure they have all received appropriate training in the changes.
• Review current processes and policies related to absence, return to work, and flexible working to ensure that you, the managers and employees are ready to deal with changes that may be brought about by the introduction of fit notes

Clearly the new fit note regime will take some time to bed in, but its aim of reducing sickness absence and managing a return to work proactively should be of benefit to all.

If you have any questions about how to plan for this and need help, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01932 874944.

Further guidance can also be found on the Department for Work and Pensions website; a link to the guide for employers is below: