Employers struggle with interpretation of fit note

Employers remain sceptical about how proactive GPs are being in using the fit note to encourage employees to return to work quicker.

Research by XpertHR has found that more than 85% of employers believe that GPs are not good at communicating what employers need to do to help workers back into work, despite the introduction of the fit note last year.

Four employers out of 10 also struggle to correctly interpret what is being asked of them by the GP, while one-third find it hard to implement GPs’ suggestions.

But the poll of 224 employers did throw up some positive findings, with employers expressing satisfaction over the improved dialogue between employers and employees about return to work, plus the fact that the new system appears easier to administer.

The most common tick box selected by GPs for employees who might be fit for work was the option for a phased return to work, followed by amended duties, the research also found.

Practically all of the employers polled had dealt with fit notes since their introduction in April 2010.

Responsibility for dealing with the notes was shared in most organisations, with, in more than three-quarters of cases, HR having the main responsibility.

In a further six out of 10 businesses, responsibility also lay with line managers, and with occupational health in one-fifth of the organisations surveyed.

The main issues around interpretation of the advice given by GPs were: a lack of detail in the comments about the basis on which the employee could return to the workplace; and an absence of understanding or knowledge about the employee’s work and workplace.

Another challenge was the resulting need to call on occupational health for advice because of the vagueness of the GPs’ suggestions, while the traditional bugbear of poor handwriting on the part of GPs was also a factor.

Full details of the fit note research can be found on XpertHR.

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