Statement of fitness for work (fit note)

From 6 April 2010 the format of the medical statement (sick note) was replaced by a statement of fitness to work, or med 3 form (fit note).

It replaced the sick note and aims to focus on what an employee may be able to do rather than what they cannot do.

It is only completed by a medical practitioner and is required to be completed after the seventh day of sickness absence. 

There are no changes to the arrangements for statutory sick pay (SSP).

What is different about the fit note?  

Previously a medical professional would indicate that either ‘you should refrain from work’ or ‘you do not need to refrain from work’. 

The fit note gives another opinion – ‘may be fit for work taking account of the following advice’.

A GP can suggest ways to help an employee back to work.

Examples include: 

  • amended hours (phased return to work)
  • altered hours
  • amended duties
  • workplace adaptions.

It also gives to GP’s the opportunity to write any comments regarding the effect of the condition.

Why have the option of fit for some work? 

Research has proved work is good for health and prolonged sickness absence can produce other problems such as:

Isolation, loss of confidence, mental health conditions, social exclusion.

Will staff still have to be certified as fit to return to work after a period of sickness?

There is no longer a fit to work certificate (med 5).  It is not required under any national guidance and the GP’s are not required to write them.

What steps should I take if adjustments are suggested?

Many adjustments can be decided and arranged through the line manager.  Should any advice be required or if the adjustments become complex, occupational health advice should be sought. 

What if I cannot accommodate the employee’s needs for adjustments?   

If you cannot reasonably make the adaptations or adjustments suggested to help a return to work, you should explain the reasons to the employee.

You should then treat the statement as if the GP has advised ‘not fit for work’.

Please contact human resources and/or occupational health who will be able to advise you further.

Sickness Absence

Studies show that work is generally good for health, and long periods of sickness absence can produce other additional problems such as isolation, loss of confidence and de-skilling.

Helping people back to work can help with an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Early intervention, help and support is the key to increasing the chances of a successful return to work.

Keeping in touch is a key factor in helping employees return to work.

The guidance below is to help you begin and maintain contact with your staff when away from work due to illness.

Steps to take to maintain contact with staff who are off sick

Keeping in touch with staff who are off sick is a key factor in helping them return to work. The line manager or supervisor should do this in most cases.

Making contact can be a sensitive topic as some staff may fear that they are being pressed to return to work before they are ready, may dislike being called at home when they have fit notes, and the intrusive nature of the calls.

Without any contact staff that have been away from work for several weeks can start to feel out of touch, not cared for, and isolated.

Their return to work is made harder for them with no contact as they soon begin to lose their self-esteem.

Do’s and don'ts!

Do:

  • Take time to get to know your staff.
  • Create a culture of trust.
  • When arranging to keep in touch, agree method and frequency.
  • Be fair and consistent with all staff.
  • Keep a note of contact.
  • Arrange to have a supportive conversation with the employee, ask how they are, where they are in terms of a return to feeling well. If appropriate are they ready to start thinking about a return to work?
  • The first few seconds of a call are crucial in determining a successful outcome. Build trust, empathise, and have an understanding approach.
  • Ask if they are happy with you being the point of contact.
  • Be respectful and not blame the employee for being off.
  • When ringing – make sure you are relaxed and free of pressure yourself. Remember the employee may well be anxious in anticipation of your call.

Don't:

  • Put off making contact or pass over to someone else unless there are sound reasons for doing so (e.g. a breakdown in relationship/ conflict or you may be the cause of the absence).
  • Make assumptions about their situation or medical condition.
  • Talk to or email others without the person’s knowledge or permission.
  • Put pressure on the employee to discuss their condition if they are not forthcoming.
  • Put pressure on employee to discuss their return before they are ready.
  • Say that colleagues are under pressure or the work is piling up.

Finally it is important to keep communication channels open friendly and positive.

Remember that recovery times are different from person to person.