Fit notes law has changed
The government has extended the time after which employees must provide proof of sickness (using fit notes) from 7 to 28 days.
The change in the law has been made on a temporary basis, to free up GP time and help the nationwide vaccination campaign.
Fit notes and proof of sickness
Employees must now give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sometimes called a ‘sick note’) if they’ve been ill for more than 28 days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.
If the sick leave started before 10th December, employees must give proof that they were ill if they were off work for more than 7 days. The legislation making the change came into effect on the 17th December.
Getting a fit note
If an employee is off work due to sickness, they should obtain a fit note from a GP. Some employers also accept fit notes from Allied Health Professionals, like Physiotherapists.
There is no charge for providing a fit note via the NHS, as long as the employee has been ill for more than 28 days when they request the note. GPs may be allowed to charge a fee if for processing requests before the new 28 day period is complete.
Most fit notes will indicate if the employee is ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’. Employers have a duty to consider any changes that may help the employee return to work. Examples of changes may be amended hours or duties. Employees must be treated as ‘not fit for work’ if agreement on any changes cannot be reached.
Self-certification of sickness
Employees who are off work for 28 days or less do not need to provide a fit note or any other proof of sickness. Employers can ask for confirmation that they’ve been sick, called ‘self-certification’.
COVID isolation notes
If employees have to isolate because of COVID-19 they can obtain an ‘isolation note’ from NHS111. They do not need to attend a GP surgery.
Employers can access professional occupational health support at any time, which can also be used to validate periods of sickness. Interventions and advice to help prevent absences re-occurring can also be provided.
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