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Employers need to use the experience of the pandemic, and the perhaps permanent changes it has brought to how and where we work, to reconsider how they measure and record absence, including how they use the fit note, argues Steve Herbert.
More than a decade after their introduction and fit notes still need improvement. That is the clear outcome of research undertaken by Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing in September.
We asked 181 senior HR, finance and payroll experts – representing a global workforce of nearly half a million employees – for their views and found that more than three in four (77%) were looking for improvements to the advice provided on fit notes, while just 2% felt that no improvement was necessary.
But it wasn’t all bad news for the often-maligned fit note, with the vast majority (83%) of the audience indicating that their organisation took note of any advice or recommendations made.
Almost half of employers (48%) always follow and implement any advice given, with another 23% taking note of some advice when it was felt to be relevant. A further 12% used the fit note guidance as a starting point for their own investigations. Only 7% of employers took no action when such recommendations were made.
Limitations of the fit note
Fit notes, OH practitioners will undoubtedly recall, were introduced in 2010 and were intended to be far less binary than the sick notes they replaced.
So, instead of an employee being signed-off all work, the new fit note was intended to focus on the work that an employee could continue to undertake subject to reasonable adjustments made by their employer.
This was and is a great idea, but it’s clear that HR professionals believe fit notes still often lack the detailed