On the 4th October Personnel Today magazine announced that in a potentially groundbreaking study, researchers from Nottingham University will investigate the best way to use fit notes to facilitate a timely return to work for those with health conditions.
Not before time I say. I have found that fit notes submitted by GPs are in the main useless and do not help employers get their employees back to work. Most of the time the GP hasn’t completed the boxes. Often it might say the employee is fit to return on light duties but give no indication as what those light duties could be.
It is up to the employer to decide with the employee if they can accommodate ‘light duties’. One of the complications I come across is that the GP says they can return to work on light duties, the employer has no ‘light duties’ for the employee so they have to stay off sick. The question is what do they get paid? If the company only pays Statutory sick pay that means that is all the employee can receive. If they had returned on light duties they would receive their salary. Its not an easy to decision to make if it means the employee is financially worse off.
I would love to hear what you think off fit notes? Drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the full report from Personnel Today.
The investigation has been commissioned by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which said that it will be the first to consider the views of patients, employers and GPs when looking into the way in which fit notes are used.
Carol Coole, senior research fellow on the project, said: “There is an indirect link between our research and long-term benefit recipients. Most work is good for our health and often people with health conditions can stay at work – or return to work – through quite simple measures.”
Avril Drummond, professor of healthcare research at the university, who will lead the study, added: “We want to know how fit notes are being used, how useful they are in helping people return to and stay at work, and how they could be used more effectively.”
Data collection and evaluation for the programme has already started and a panel-based “Delphi” study will be carried out between April and July next year.
A final report on the findings is expected to be submitted at the end of September, the university added.
Jane White, research and information services manager at IOSH, said: “The first four to six weeks of a person being absent from work is a critical window, and without proactive intervention this could lead to long-term sickness absence.
“Therefore, the doctor’s fit note is a vital link between a person, their employer, and them going to work with the right support when they are able. So we need to ensure that it works as effectively as it should, and this research plays an important role in doing that.”