Employment law experts approve of sick note changes

Proposed changes to the way sick notes are issued have been welcomed by employment law experts.

The new proposals, announced in a recent report by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), will enable non-medical professionals such as physiotherapists, nurses and chiropractors, to issue sick notes – a responsibility previously reserved for GPs – and are expected to be introduced in April 2006.

They work on the theory that a physiotherapist or osteopath is likely to be in a better position to give an accurate diagnosis of his or her patient than a GP with no prior relationship with the patient other than a request for a sick note.

Russell Brown, head of employment law at Manchester law firm Glaisyers, said:  “This is good news for employers who want to make sure an employee’s condition has been properly assessed by a specialist with the time and expertise to carry out an accurate examination. 

“GP sick notes serve as strong evidence of a person’s incapacity to work but they aren’t conclusive. Evidence uncovered by this report suggests that GPs face pressure to provide sick notes for fear that they could face a charge of negligence if they don’t.” 

These proposals should make it harder for those who feign illness or injury to deceive their medial advisers into providing a sick note, he said.

Research by the CBI estimates that 168 million days were lost through sick leave in 2004 and that up to 14% of those were a result of staff pulling ‘sickies’.

The DWP said it would now consider the findings in consultation with other governmental departments and professional bodies.

The report can be found at www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2005-2006/rrep225.pdf

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