Fit note has made no difference to sickness absence, say employers

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of employers believe that the fit note has made no difference to sickness absence levels since its introduction in 2010, a report has found.

The research, from manufacturers’ organisation EEF and health insurance provider Westfield Health, found that a further 11% of organisations thought that the fit note was less helpful than the previous sick-note system.

The findings echo 2011 research from XpertHR, which found that 69% of employers thought that the fit note had had no impact on sickness absence in their organisations.

In the light of the findings, EEF has called on the Government to implement urgently the recommendations of the Frost/Black review on sickness absence, including measures aimed at embedding a “fit-note culture” through the training of GPs.

According to the report, just 3,500 out of 40,000 GPs operating in the UK have been trained in the use of fit notes.

The report also raised concerns that, while there has been a continued decline in short-term absence over the last five years, the overall rate of sickness absence has “plateaued”.

Professor Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at EEF, commented: “There are now signs that the ways to reduce short-term absence are being exhausted and we need a fresh approach from government to address the more deep-rooted problems, such as stress and back pain.

“For its part, the Government must now implement the Frost/Black recommendations as a matter of urgency. In particular, it must embed the fit-note culture through the training of all doctors and support companies that invest in rehabilitation.”

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