Managing employee sickness absence
On the 6th October 2023, the Government updated it’s guidance ‘Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers’.
What are fit notes?
Most employers and managers are familiar with fit notes, but to recap a fit note is an official statement from a registered healthcare professional giving their medical opinion on a person’s fitness for work, previously known as a sick note.
If an employee is off work sick for more than 7 calendar days, then they are required to obtain a fit note from a healthcare professional to provide to their employer, in order to claim Statutory Sick Pay.
Fit notes have undergone significant changes in the last 18 months; including a new version of the fit note being introduced in April 2022 to replace the signature in wet ink with the name and profession of the issuer; followed by policy updates in July 2022 to enable nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists to certify fit notes, in addition to GPs.
6th October 2023 Guidance Updates
The more recent updates do not include any changes to the overall policy or rules on the use of fit notes, but substantial revisions to the official Government guidance on fit notes.
The updated guidance document:
- recommends a discussion with the employee upon receipt of their Fit Note;
- advocates maintaining regular contact with the employee during the period of their Fit Note;
- gives some guidance on what to consider if an employee receives a note stating they ‘may be fit for work’; and
- confirms that an employee cannot be required to provide further medical evidence beyond a fit note.
As well as the general revisions to the guidance document, the below listed Government resources have also been made available:
- A Fit Note: Checklist for Employers which is designed to support discussions between the employer and the employee following the employee being issued a Fit Note.
- A guidance document explaining the form, to help employers and managers navigate the Fit Note, check they have all the information they should have, and understand the significance of the various dates included on it.
- Supplemented by six case studies which illustrate how fit notes should be used to help employers manage employee absences and support employees to return to work.
With the recent CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work survey, reporting the highest level of employee sickness absence in over a decade, these updates and resources have made a timely arrival, and would be well placed as part of a manager’s ‘toolkit’ in navigating employee sickness absence.