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GP fit note programme has ‘failed to get people back into work’

GP-administered ‘fit notes’ have failed to return people to work, a survey of 345 UK companies has suggested.

Almost half of companies (43%) said fit notes were ‘not helping employees to return to work’, and more than half (59%) said they felt unable to make all of the ‘required workplace adjustments’ for employees who had fit notes signed as ‘may be fit for work’.

The Government’s flagship fit note scheme replaced sick notes five years ago in the hope it would see GPs sending thousands more employees back to work and reduce sickness absence, despite GPs having expressed doubts since before its launch.

EEF, the industry body for engineering and manufacturing employers which commissioned the survey, said: ‘The evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier.’

To aid the process, the organisation has developed a ‘template’ that the employee can bring to the GP consultation. It outlines what changes the employer is willing and able to make.

EEF health and safety lead Terry Woolmer said: ‘It is vital that employers take their responsibility for working with employees and GPs seriously. This template will spell out clearly the adjustments they are willing to do to enable the employee to return to work in some capacity.’