Two sets of research by XpertHR have argued that employers remain split about the merits of the fit note, but that targeting absence management training at line managers improved absence rates for two-thirds of the organisations that took part.
The report on the fit note, studying how employers now view it since its launch in April 2010, has concluded that slightly more than half (52%) of employers disagreed with the statement: "the fit note system is a big step forward in how employers manage sickness absence".
More than two-thirds of organisations questioned reported no change in their sickness absence levels, with nearly a quarter reporting only a small impact.
The most common change that was made to an employee's working arrangements following "may be fit for work" advice from the GP was simply arranging a phased return to work.
One employer in three also said that up to a quarter of fit notes with a "may be fit for work" classification had in fact related to an employee with a disability.
Meanwhile, the second report has concluded that providing such training generally gave line managers more confidence to tackle non-attendance proactively.
Among those employers that saw improved absence rates as a result of manager training, 20% witnessed a significant reduction and 68% saw "some reduction" in their absence levels.
Only one organisation in 10 of the 178 that conducted absence management training thought that it was unsuccessful.
Charlotte Wolff, XpertHR training editor and author of the report, said: "It appears that giving line managers the skills they need to deal with the sometimes complex issues surrounding sickness and absence frequently pays off."
Full details of the fit note research and study on absence management training can be found on XpertHR.