Statement of Fitness for Work - Fit Note
In 2010 the system for being off sick changed in as much as when you visit your doctor now regarding your ability to work you may be given a statement of fitness for work or fit note (replaces sick note)which gives your employer a clearer idea if you are able to perform part of your job. The onus is on what you can do rather than what you can’t do. This system can enhance working conditions for you as if you are being placed in a stressful situation which has caused you to take time off work, it will give you the opportunity of discussing this with your employer. It may require some renegotiation but if you were able to have some relief from the stress you may find it easier to return to the workplace more rapidly. Longer periods away from the working environment and loss of contact with work colleagues has in the past meant that is has been more difficult or taken even longer to return to work.
Being out of work for long periods of time place hardship on families and finances and can enhance the problem with additional psychological pressure.
The fit note gives more options to both the employer and employee to examine and compromise on to facilitate an early return to work.
May be fit for work
The Fit Note will still be relevant if you are claiming statutory sick pay and will still be used after the 7th calendar day of sickness. Worry about loss of earnings can have a negative effect on the employee therefore being able to do part of the job description will mean that employment to a certain degree may continue. This return to the workplace may involve negotiation to make adaptations and consent from the employer.
Despite the opportunity for compromise it may be the case where the employer feels that the employee is unable to fulfil their job description. This situation may arise because alterations or compromise is beyond the organisational capabilities or outside the terms of the contract of employment. If this situation arises the employer is able to state that the employee is unfit to work. In those circumstances the employee will need to return to the Doctor with a statement outlining why the employer feels that the job description cannot be fulfilled.
Not fit for work
This is where your doctor feels that you will not be able to undertake any aspect of your job description. This is usually a health condition which is time bound for instance after you have had surgery, or a procedure performed.
If you have had a period of illness and wish to return to the work environment it may be possible to negotiate a slow return which can involve a variety of options such as:
Reduced hours for an agreed period of time[Soft Break]A reduced number of shifts[Soft Break]Lighter or more administrative duties[Soft Break]Workplace adaptations may be required[Soft Break]Increased break periods during the day[Soft Break]Avoidance of lifting heavy articles or operating certain machinery
A risk assessment may be needed by the employer to evaluate if the alterations require additional training or additional support from the organisation. The organisation or company you work for may need to check with their insurance company regarding their employers’ liability compulsory insurance if there is any doubt of cover or to clarify the issue.
If you do return to work on reduced hours you should be in a position where the return to work causes you no detriment, meaning that you are not worse off than when you were off on full statutory sick pay.
Your doctor will need to complete the fit note and it will state any recommendations they have made along with a date for your return to work. If the date is for less than 14 days the doctor will not need to see the patient prior to returning to work unless the patient feels it is necessary.
If your doctor has assessed you as fit to return to your workplace then they will not produce another statement.
The Equality Act
Clarified in the Equality strategy, is the statement that you should not be treated unfairly because of your colour, race, religion or disability. Flexibility in the workplace is being encouraged not only for the employees but to encourage the businesses to grow. This includes reasonable adaptations within the workplace for those who may need additional help. Flexibility means that an open mind about differing work possibilities, gives both the employer and employee the ability to not only adjust but improve. However, it is important to note that if you have become disabled due to illness and that you have been either discriminated against due to that disability or unfairly dismissed you may have a case against your employer.
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