Fit note: employers sceptical new note will reduce sickness absence levels

Just a fifth of employers believe the new fit note will help reduce employee absence, a new survey has found.


A poll showed 22% of organisations were sceptical that the new fit note – which replaces the sick note on 6 April – will help to reduce the 175 million days lost to ill health each year.


The survey, conducted by workforce management consultancy Kronos and based on 1,400 managers, also showed there was still widespread confusion about the note, with 35% of employers still unaware of its introduction, and 64% having received no guidance about what to do when an employee produces one.


And while less than a quarter believe that the fit note will reduce absence, 38% of employers believe that the fit note will create more problems than it solves.






Other Kronos survey results: How employers are managing sickness absence




  • 90% are monitoring patterns of absence behaviour to help manage absence levels


  • 89% are conducting timely back-to-work interviews when employees return after a period of absence


  • 72% are providing good information to employees about the negative effect of absence on the organisation


  • 56% of employers are encouraging flexible working.


The fit note has already attracted criticism from HR chiefs, who said the lack of detail required to be filled out by the GP on the document would “inevitably” lead to disputes between employers and staff about what amounts to suitable work following a period of sickness absence.


However, Simon Coates, head of employment law at Irwin Mitchell, was adamant that fit notes would help to cut the cost of sickness absence. “Fit notes will reduce these costs by getting people back to some form of work as soon as they are able to return.”


He added: “The emphasis will be on getting absent employees back to work in whatever capacity they are able to return, and there are a variety of ways this can be done.


“These include a gradual return… amended working hours, changes to the working environment itself, or adjusting the activities expected of an employee.”


Fit notes will be given by GPs and will assess whether a sick patient ‘may be fit for work’. It is part of the government’s drive to help more people stay in employment rather than drift into long-term sickness absence and cut the cost of sick leave for employers.


 


 


 

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