New ‘fit notes’

By: Chris Walker

Date: 31 March 2010

The introduction of new regulations almost inevitably brings howls of anguish from the small business community. The introduction of a new system of fit notes from April 6 (to replace the traditional sick note) is no exception.

For those who aren't up to date with the changes, the new fit note allows an employee's GP to declare the patient either "not fit for work" or "fit for some work".

Where the patient is not fully fit, the GP can also recommend several different options: a phased return to work; altered hours; amended duties; or workplace adaptations.

At first glance, this looks like the usual recipe for disaster, forcing employers to introduce costly changes. But that turns out not to be the case. If it would be impractical or too expensive to make the necessary changes, you can simply treat it as if the GP had said the employee was "not fit for work" and handle sickness and sick pay in the normal way.

The upshot should be that you can reduce the number of days lost to sickness and the disruption to your business. It's good news!

For those who can't stand looking on the bright side, it's worth mentioning that the situation is quite different for employees suffering from a long-term condition. That's covered by disability discrimination regulations, and you're legally bound to make reasonable adjustments.

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