Fit notes come into law

Employees who are off sick for more than seven days will be issued with new fit notes rather than the traditional sick note under legislation introduced today.

The new Statement of Fitness For Work note, which is relevant to all businesses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will contain two options: “unfit for work” or “may be fit for work taking account of the following advice”.

It is the brainchild of Dame Carol Black, the government’s adviser on health and work, who claimed ill-health costs the economy £100bn a year.

Patients are being encouraged to discuss a possible return to work with employers once they have received medical advice to that effect.

Manufacturers’ association EEF has represented employers in government consultations on the new note. Chief medical officer, professor Sayeed Khan, said: “After more than 60 years of using the old sick note the new fit note is the right tool for modern medicine and a modern society.

“To improve sickness absence management we have to change the culture away from what people cannot do to what they can do. The new system is a welcome change and, for those companies that embrace it, it will bring significant business benefits.”

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