Employers have little confidence in the fit note system and do not feel that GPs effectively communicate what needs to be done in order for employees to return to work after illness.
That is one of the main findings of the latest XpertHR survey on the fit note system, which also found that responsibility for dealing with fit notes is shared in most organisations. Three-quarters of respondents (77.7%) said that HR was responsible for dealing with fit notes, but a further 62.2% said responsibility also lies with line managers, and 19.7% said it lies with occupational health.
Fit notes were introduced in April 2010 and replaced the old sick note system, under which GPs advised on whether a patient should or should not work. Under the fit note system, doctors can place an employee in a category that states they "may be fit for work taking account of the following advice".
Another element of fit notes is a section in which a GP can provide additional comments on an employee's condition where they may be fit for work. Despite this being a valuable tool for employers, almost one-third of respondents (31.7%) said that section is left blank. A further 44.4% said the section is completed "infrequently".
The survey also found that almost half of respondents said it is either quite difficult or very difficult to interpret GPs' suggestions for employees who may be fit for work.
For more information, read the full survey report on XpertHR.