Monday, 19 April 2010

Fit or sick? You can make the difference

Shropshire employees who need to visit their doctor will now be given “fit” notes rather than “sick” notes.

And Tina Chander, from our Employment Law team, has welcomed the move as a great step forward in helping businesses to run more smoothly.

"The rules on sick notes changed earlier this month - previously when an employee was ill or injured, their doctor would issue a sicknote which would be commonly used by employers as evidence to calculate sick pay. But now, doctors have the option to certify that a patient may be fit for work, as long as certain steps are taken to help them adjust.”

Tina said the new scheme should allow employees to return to work sooner than they would have previously, and so prevent them from staying off work for long periods of time, which of course interrupts business.

“If a doctor uses the fit note option, they will give advice about the effects of the patient’s condition, and suggest the kind of adjustments or adaptations an employer could make to help ease their return. While employers don’t have to act on the doctor’s advice, the fit note may help employers to speed up the employee’s return to work and reduce unnecessary sickness absence.

“If an employer cannot make the changes necessary to give their staff member additional support, then for sick pay purposes, they should consider the doctor’s note as if it had declared the employee was unfit for work and begin the payments from that point onwards.”

Tina said the company’s obligations to make reasonable adjustments to staff working conditions under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 would not change.