Fit notes go electronic

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In the last few weeks, you may have started to receive computer-completed fit notes from your employees’ GPs, rather than handwritten fit notes. We examine the implications of this.

Fit notes were first introduced just over two years ago. They replaced the old 'sick note' and were introduced to encourage GPs and doctors to focus on what an employee may be able to do at work rather than what they cannot do.

In our recent survey only 30% of respondents found the fit note more useful than the old sick note. We believe that it is no coincidence that out of 41,350 GPs in the UK, only 3,500 have been trained on how to use the fit note.

Will this make a difference?

One way of getting employees back to work sooner is to get better information from GPs. The electronic fit note may help since it cannot be completed by the GP unless all boxes are ‘ticked’. We hope that this will result in an increase in the number of fit notes that state an employee 'may be fit for work taking account of the following advice' as well as more information about the functional effect of the individual’s condition.

It is interesting to note that in our survey, employers who made contact with their local GPs about what type of adjustments could be made to help an employee back into work were more likely to receive fit notes stating that the employee is fit to do some work than those who didn’t.

What will electronic fit notes look like?

The electronic fit note will be printed on one side of A4 paper and will include the same information as handwritten fit notes, presented side by side rather than front and back. Click here to see a sample electronic fit note. You will receive a paper (not an emailed) copy.

You may still get handwritten fit notes, for example, during home visits or before the GP's computer system has been upgraded. Hospital doctors will still use handwritten notes.

Get better at managing ill-health and absence

It can be difficult to deal with issues surrounding absence and ill health amongst the workforce and often, employers feel they are stuck with an unsatisfactory situation. As well as being proactive about getting better information from GPs, there are many other steps you can take to address the problems caused by employees who are unwell or off sick.

With this in mind, we are running a series of seminars on Managing Sickness and Absence in November and December 2012. Combining our HR and employment law experience with the occupational health expertise of our Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sayeed Khan, these seminars will focus on practical solutions to common types of absence and health issues and give you the confidence to tackle tricky situations.

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