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Practice dilemma: Fit note request

What do I need to do if presented with a fit note from an employee? Our legal expert gives advice.

From 6 April 2010, the sick note is being replaced by the 'fit note'. Under the new scheme, a GP is able to say that their patient is either 'unfit for work' or 'may be fit for work'.

The 'unfit for work' option works in the same way as the current sick note. However, if the 'may be fit for work' option is chosen, the GP should go on to select from a non-exhaustive list of changes that they consider may assist their patient to return to work.

Where an employee presents a 'may be fit for work' statement, this should prompt a discussion with them about whether they could in fact return to work despite their illness or injury. The GP's recommendations need to be considered carefully, not only with the employee but also in the context of the practice as there may be practical reasons or specific safety guidelines or regulations which render the suggestions unworkable. If applicable, you should carry out a risk assessment.

If a return to work, with adjustments, is feasible then the changes and a date for review should be discussed and agreed with the employee. In most cases the changes will be for a temporary period, although in some situations may be longer term.

Even though a GP has advised that the employee may be fit for work, if you cannot make any adjustments or adaptations to help facilitate the return to work then you are not bound by their recommendations. If the options are not workable then the reasons should be properly explained to the employee. In these circumstances you should continue paying sick pay as usual as if the employee is 'unfit for work' and review the situation again as the employee visits their GP.

Notwithstanding this, it is important to remember that nothing in this new scheme changes your obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) to make reasonable adjustments in the work place if the particular employee has a 'disability' as defined by that legislation.

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards Fit Note Resource Centre

Check out our Fit Note Resource Centre for all the latest news, advice and case-studies on the revised Med 3


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