Fit Notes to replace Sick Notes

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04 February 2010

A new medical fit note will come into effect on 6 April 2010 to replace the current sick notes used by doctors.

The new fit note& will shift the focus from the doctor simply declaring that the employee is unfit to work, to the doctor providing information and recommendations on what the employer can do to enable the employee to return to work earlier.

The Government has issued its response to the consultation on the draft regulations and will not be making any fundamental changes to the system initially proposed. However, the options on the fit note form are slightly different to those initially proposed:

  • The 'fit for work' option has been removed from the form. Following consultation, the Government acknowledge that it is not the doctor, but the employer, in consultation with the employee, who has the knowledge about the employee's role and who is best placed to make the decision as to whether the employee is fit for work
  • The 'may be fit for some work' option on the form has been replaced with an option that the employee 'may be fit for work taking into account the advice contained within'. The form then lists common changes (phased return to work, altered hours, amended duties and workplace adaptions) which the employer could make to the employee's work environment or job role to help facilitate a return to work, which the doctor can tick. There is also additional space to allow the doctor to detail any other options which he or she feels appropriate. Whilst employers will not be obliged to implement the suggestions made by the doctor in this form, employers will, however, have to bear in mind their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The 'not fit for work' option remains.

These changes will put far more onus on the employer to make the final decision on fitness and what changes can be made to accommodate the employee's return to work.

In addition, the maximum duration of the initial medical statement following the diagnosis of a medical condition is to be reduced from six months to three months, allowing a doctor and employer to re-evaluate the employee's medical condition at an earlier stage.

The Government intends to publish specific guidance for individuals, employers and healthcare professionals shortly and a Government evaluation of the new medical statement will be published in 2012/13.

If you would like any further information, please email our employment, pensions and incentives unit at

If you would like advice on a specific instance, please contact Chris Seaton on 0117 939 2000 or email or contact the lawyer with whom you usually deal.

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