The IPP urges employers to prepare their payroll staff for the introduction of the new ‘fit note’

The Institute of Payroll Professionals (IPP) is urging employers to prepare their payroll staff on the introduction of the ‘fit note’, which will be replacing the traditional format of a medical statement or sick note from 6 April 2010.

According to the recent release of guidance for employers from the Department for Work and Pensions, the ‘fit note’ will enable doctors to recommend if a patient ‘may be fit for work’. GPs will also have the option to advise that their patient would be able to work, subject to the employer’s agreement, if changes such as a phased return to work, reduced working hours or amended duties could be accommodated.

However, the IPP is encouraging employers to ensure that their payroll departments are prepared to handle these changes. There are a number of areas that payroll professionals need to consider, including the qualifying conditions for statutory sick pay (SSP) if an employee’s working hours are altered. 

Employers will also need to take into account the financial impact of a phased return to work, along with the possible implications on the workload and hours of other staff members. Also, consideration should be given to what this means in terms of determining a Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW).

Elaine Gibson, Senior Policy Officer at the IPP, said: “The introduction of the ‘fit note’ should assist in providing both the employer and employee with more choice on how to cope with sickness absence.

“For those employers that can afford the flexibility to adapt their work environment to the conditions of an individual, this could mean that an employee can go back to work and be productive rather than being on sick leave and claiming sickness benefit.

“Yet, it is worth mentioning that a large organisation may be better equipped and have more resources to deal with this kind of situation whereas a smaller employer may not.

“The IPP was involved in early consultation relating to the ‘fit note’ and indeed has always supported the associated improvements; however we were not included in the latter consultation relating to the new employer guidance.

“If given the opportunity, the IPP would have liked to explore in more depth the potential negative impact of a phased return to work and altered hours on the payroll profession and in particular, SMEs.”

Employer guidance on ‘fit notes’ can be found on www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/.

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