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Firms fear ‘fit notes’ could increase absenteeism

A government consultation on the proposed new ‘fit note’ scheme closes on Wednesday (August 19).

But solicitors on the Insight team for regional law firm Tollers say so far their clients do not seem that excited by the proposed change.

Gary Tait, who heads the Insight team advising clients on employment law, HR issues and health and safety, said:  “The feedback we are getting from clients so far is pretty lacklustre.

“Many business owners are worried that in the confusion of change, doctors will issue more excuses for staff who do not fancy working for a few days. While they feel that a replacement for sick notes is well overdue, they are not convinced that the fit notes scheme will actually make a difference and could even drive absenteeism up.”

Sick notes have remained largely unchanged since the NHS was founded, even though work has become generally safer and less physically demanding.

The new fit note will ask GPs to assess whether a patient falls into one of three categories:

•    “Fit for work”
•    “Not fit for work”
•    “Maybe fit for some work now”

With the third category, employers will be asked to consider a phased return to work, altered hours, amended duties or workplace adaptations accordingly.

The new ‘fit notes’ are due to be rolled out across Britain in spring 2010.

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