The Government has published its response to consultation on the ‘fit notes’ that are set to replace sick notes. The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 are intended to come into force on 6 April 2010 despite concerns that this will not allow time for stakeholders to familiarise themselves with the new ‘fit notes’.
Under the new system:
* The statement will list common changes which could be made to an employee’s work environment or job role to help facilitate a return to work. Where a doctor considers another option is more appropriate, he or she will have the opportunity to state this in the comments box.
* There will no longer be ‘a fit for work’ option as doctors were felt not to have the appropriate knowledge about individuals’ roles and the risks involved to be able to assess this.
* The ‘may be fit for some work’ option will be replaced with ‘you may be fit for work taking account of the following advice’. This acknowledges that it is not the doctor, but the employer, in consultation with their employee, who is best placed to make the decision as to whether they can accommodate any changes to facilitate a return to work.
* The maximum duration a medical statement can be issued for will be reduced from six to three months during the first six months of a health condition.
* If an employer is not able to facilitate a change or an adjustment, a revised statement is not necessary; the existing statement is evidence that an individual has a health condition preventing him or her carrying out the current role.
* The Government intends that specific guidance for individuals, employers and healthcare professionals will be available shortly. There will also be a communications campaign to ensure awareness of the changes.
A Government evaluation of the new medical statement will be published in 2012/13. This will commission new qualitative and quantitative research, supplemented by sickness absence data and other quantitative survey data covering the areas of health and work from 12 months after implementation. The evaluation will consider the impact on different regions and on different illnesses and disabilities where possible, as well as impact by gender, age and race.