Fit for work or not fit for work, that is the question!
Tuesday 29th June 2010
The new "Fit Note" forms were introduced on 6th April 2010. The main aim was to emphasise what employees can do, not what they can't do, and to reduce the number of people off work. Whilst it is still early days, a number of problems appear to have surfaced with them already.
The option to sign an individual as not fit for work remains on the form. However, the option of deciding the individual is "fit for work" has been replaced with "may be fit for work taking account of the following advice"
The advice of the GP is not legally binding on employers but can have implications for legal proceedings. The use of the new Fit Note however has already received some criticism from employers who cannot read GP's handwriting. The Department for Work and Pensions chief medical adviser has stated one of the drawbacks of the new system is the legibility of doctors' handwriting. There was hope amongst some that the new system would become digital by the end of 2010, however, this is thought unlikely. Another concern is that if a GP finds themselves becoming embroiled in litigation (e.g. in a disability discrimination claim as medical expert witness) they may become reluctant to give advice on the fit note.
On 7th June, Personnel Today reported that the website Doctorsnotestore.com was selling fake Fit Notes to people for as little as £10. The Fit Notes were reported as being "impressively authentic looking, written on official paper and with a stamp". The website claimed they were for "novelty use only", however, employers were warned that employees may be using them to claim sick pay. Employers be warned!
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