Update your Sickness Policies for “fit note” Reform
Businesses must update their sickness absence policies ready for the new “fit note” rules on 6 April, insurance firm Aviva has urged.
Officially called the Statement of Fitness for Work, (547k PDF) the “fit note” will replace the traditional sick note. The note allows doctors to say whether a person is “unfit for work” or “may be fit for work” if certain conditions are met, such as different working hours or avoiding heavy lifting.
However, it is up to employers themselves to decide whether to make the necessary adjustments for an employee to return safely, or sign them off sick.
“Businesses need to include two new things in their policies,”
said Aviva liability risk manager, Phil Grace.
“Firstly, how they will manage the health and safety risk of individuals returning to work, by reviewing risk assessments and making any change. Secondly, they need to ensure that those responsible for day-to-day management of the employee know what changes are needed.”
“If the employer decides to take on the GP’s recommendations and make adjustments so the employee can come back sooner, they should check that the employee is happy with those adjustments,” he added.
“If they don’t make the necessary changes, there is a greater risk that an accident will occur and the employer will be more at risk from compensation claims.”
He added that businesses should be aware that GPs’ guidance may not always be realistic, because they may have a limited understanding of a particular workplace.
“A small firm with five or ten employees may not be able to give the employee a different role while they recover, in which case they must sign them off as sick.”
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) employee relations adviser, Ben Wilmott, said that businesses can limit loss of productivity by allowing employees to return to work in phases.
“The longer an employee is absent the less likely they are to make a successful return. Employers should look at the possibilities, the nature of the work and the needs of the business, then see if they can make adjustments.”
“If they can’t make the adjustment, then they must explain carefully what the reasons are and sign the individual off work. If they have an honest conversation with the employee, and say that they would make the adjustments if they could but are unable to, they are more likely to retain a good relationship with them.”
For further information read our business advice article on workplace policies.