An important change regarding who can issue fit notes takes effect on 1st July 2022.
Traditionally, only doctors were able to issue a Statement of Fitness for Work, typically called a “fit note", after they have assessed an individual’s fitness for work. The fit note usually sets out what the condition is, the period of time the individual will be incapacitated by the condition and whether (or not) the doctor will need to reassess the individual at the end of the period of incapacity.
An employee can provide a Fit Note as evidence of whether they are able to work. The assessment by the doctor could be that they are unable to work (incapacitated) or that they might be able to work if certain adjustments are made, such as changes to job duties, hours of work or the physical working environment. These adjustments would be indicated on the fit note by the doctor.
An employee can self-certify their sickness absence for the first seven consecutive days of their ill-health. However, it is very important that they provide a fit note for an ill-health incapacity of more than seven consecutive days, so that they can be supported where necessary and can confirm with their employer the reasons for their incapacity for sick pay purposes.
What is changing?
From 1 July 2022, the law is changing so that Statements of Fitness to Work (fit notes) may also be issued by:
- occupational therapists;
- pharmacists; and
These healthcare professionals are able to issue fit notes as long as they have conducted an assessment of an individual's fitness for work. This means that it is not permissible for them to issue fit notes on request or via over-the-counter services without an assessment.
Employers should be aware that the requirement for a fit note to be signed by the issuer has been removed, following a change to the law that took effect on 6 April 2022.
This means that an employee may provide their employer with a digitally issued fit note that does not include the issuer's signature. However, the information about the issuer of the fit note should include the:
- issuer's name;
- issuer's profession, which as well as a doctor can now be a nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist or physiotherapist;
- issuer's address; and
- date of the statement.
What does this mean for employers?
This means it is important to remember that from 1 July 2022 an employee may be provided with a fit note issued by a doctor or by someone from this wider group of healthcare professionals.
Employers should treat a fit note issued by a nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, or physiotherapist on or after 1 July 2022 in the same way as they would treat a fit note issued by a doctor, i.e. as valid evidence of the employee’s sickness absence.
If the employer has any concerns over the validity of an employee's fit note, they should raise the issue with their HR department or Occupational Health team. If they do not have an HR or OH department, they should discuss their concerns with an HR specialist.