From Friday 1st July 2022 -  Fit notes can be issued and signed by occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses and pharmacists – Not Just Doctors

At present, only Doctors are able to issue fit notes, however from 1st July this will change to give Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Pharmacists and Physiotherapists the ability to issue fit notes.  But, there is still the requirement for a fitness to work assessment and the fit notes will NOT be issued as an over the counter service or on request (apparently).   The legislation has been updated to define "Healthcare Professional" which now includes the four new professions as well as Doctors.

The rationale behind this change is to reduce pressure on GPs, freeing up time for patients to book appointments and to increase generally time for patient care.

So what does this mean for employers?

In theory, the impact of the change is intended to be limited, it permits a wider group of Healthcare Professionals to issue fit notes for statutory purposes only (SSP and other social security benefits). However, in practice, this may have a wider impact which employers need to take into consideration.

First, there is the potential issue that with increasing the ability for other Healthcare Professionals to sign fit notes, this will in turn increase the number of employees obtaining approved sickness absence with less rigorous assessments being carried out by the other Healthcare Professionals compared to the employees own GP.  So, employers may see an increase in the sickness absence length and levels.

Secondly, whilst fit notes are really intended to relate to SSP entitlement, they are often adopted by employers in their sickness absence policies with the right to receive company sick pay and in some cases this can be for a long period of time, depending only on receipt of a fit note from the employee.  As such, it may be worth employers reviewing their policies going forward to include a requirement for their employees to obtain fit notes specifically from their GP or Consultant, rather than the other “Healthcare Professionals”, as a condition to receive company sick pay.  Another point to consider is whether the employers policies/contracts of employment contains a provision that entitles the employer to obtain a more detailed medical report from the employees GP/Doctor/Consultant or the employers occupational health care provider for more complex cases of absence or those absences that are long term. This is a usual cause in a contract/sickness absence policy as it is best practice, but it may be worth reviewing and updating to define the employers requirements if it is open ended or can be interpreted too widely to catch all “Healthcare Professionals”.

Electronic fit notes can still be issued by the "Healthcare Professional” so there is still no need for the wet signature so to speak.

To discuss this update or any of the issues that arise from it, please do not hesitate to contact Emma-Louise Hewitt by email or on 0121 746 3300.


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