HR Expert: More medical professionals to be given powers to issue fit notes
I have been approached by a client having an issue with staff absences. In the town where most of their employees live, the doctor’s surgery is exceptionally busy (like many I think!). They are finding their employees cannot get appointments for weeks, and if they are off sick and need a fit note these are often submitted late, as they were unable to see a doctor. My client has no reason to believe these absences are not genuine, however they are finding it difficult when trying to manage absences and payroll when they don’t have the right certification when they need it.

Is there anything I can tell them that might help?

Obtaining a fit note when an absence lasts for more than seven days is something employees must do in order to receive sick pay and comply with your client’s (and many other employers) absence reporting procedures. They also help your client to manage absences by giving them greater clarity as to the reasons for the absence and makes them aware if there are any adjustments that can be put in place to allow the individual to return to work sooner. Obviously, therefore, they are very important documents.

There is however a solution to your client’s problem coming soon – from the 1st July 2022 in fact! In order to reduce pressure on doctors, particularly GPs, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) proposed that nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists should be able to certify and issue fit notes following an assessment of the individual.
The new rules will come into force from 1 July 2022, lifting the requirement that only doctors can issue the notes.

The aim is to support and empower better conversations about work and health between employers and staff by making it easier to get this advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.

This change follows legislation changes in April 2022 which removed the need for fit notes to be signed in ink. This change makes it possible for eligible healthcare professionals to certify fit notes digitally and also for patients to receive their fit note via digital channels (where GP IT systems support this).

Both of the changes outlined above should help to ease the pressure on your client and their employees, and allow their processes to run more smoothly once the correct certification can be obtained from a wider variety of sources.


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