A new assessment report has been launched for employers and GPs that will allow allied health professionals - such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chiropodists and podiatrists - to assess an individual's fitness to remain in work.
The Allied Health Professions (AHP) advisory fitness for work report (AHP fitness report) has been developed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), the College of Occupational Therapists and the Society of Chiropody and Podiatrists.
The CSP stressed that the new report is not intended to replace the conventional Statement of Fitness for Work currently in use, as employees will still need one from a doctor to claim ill-health benefits.
But it added that the Department for Work and Pensions was "keen to encourage" allied health professionals to make use of the report and assist GPs, employers and patients in gaining a better picture of someone's ability to remain in or return to work following illness, injury or recovery from treatment.
Léonie Dawson, a CSP professional adviser, said: "The aim of the AHP fitness report is to help people remain engaged with work and to help prevent the slide into a reliance on benefits. "It can provide evidence to employers for sick-pay purposes and advice on how to help staff get back to work sooner."
In a separate development, the Government has published revised guidance on the fit note, updating the original guidance issued when the new medical note was first launched in 2010.
Changes include an updated Q&A section, further guidance on how a fit note can show whether or not a patient is expected to be fit for work once the note expires and advice for patients and employers on adjustments to workplaces to accommodate advice in a fit note.
There is also new information on the legal status of the note in relation to sick pay, guidance on the computer-generated fit note and an extended section on the further resources that are available.
Dr Bill Gunnyeon, chief medical adviser for the Department for Work and Pensions, said: "The fit note can be valuable in helping people return to work quickly. This revised guidance helps everyone use it to its full potential."