Fit Note Fails to Cut Staff Absence Rates
Staff absences were slightly higher last year despite the introduction of the ‘fit note’, research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found.
The CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey (PDF) found the UK economy lost 190 million working days to absence last year, with each employee taking an average of 6.5 days off sick ? compared to an average of 6.4 days in 2009.
The increase comes despite the introduction of the fit note in April 2010, which aimed to encourage absent staff to return to work as soon as they are able.
“The fit note is a great initiative, which could play an important role in helping people back to work and stopping them slide into long-term absence.”
said CBI chief policy director, Katja Hall.
“But employers are far from convinced that the scheme is working properly and don’t think GPs are getting the necessary training.”
Officially called the Statement of Fitness for Work, the fit note replaced the traditional sick note and 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 to decide whether to make the necessary adjustments for an employee to return safely, or sign them off sick.
Despite strong support for the initiative, employers have been disappointed by their experience so far. The CBI survey found 71% were not confident that GPs were using the fit note differently from the old note.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development employee relations adviser, Ben Willmott, said it was still early days for the fit note, saying:
“It will take a while for any realistic assessment of its impact.”
“There is often a correlation between the state of the labour market and absence levels. During the 2008 recession we saw absence rates fall. Against a background of job insecurity and redundancy you see absences fall. As the labour market recovers it’s not surprising to see absence levels increasing slightly.”
For further business advice on the subject see the article Statement of Fitness for Work (The Fit Note) “From Sick Note to Fit Note”