New legislation permits fit notes to be certified by a wider group of healthcare professionals than previously. Schools will be aware that when an employee is off work for more than seven consecutive days due to ill health, their absence needs to be certified by way of a ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’ – also known as a ‘fit note’.
Prior to 1 July 2022, only doctors were able to certify and issue fit notes. New legislation now allows a wider group of registered health professionals to certify and issue fit notes. This includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses and pharmacists.
The healthcare professional issuing the fit note will still need to assess the individual’s fitness for work. It will not be possible for an individual to be handed a fit note ‘over-the-counter’ at a pharmacy. The government indicated that the legislative change is intended to reduce pressures on doctors.
This is just one of the recent changes concerning fit notes. Since 6 April 2022, a fit note can be issued and received digitally, with the name of the issuer stated within the note. While digital fit notes are being rolled out and systems are being updated, ‘wet ink’ fit notes remain valid. We understand, however, that the intention is to move to a fully digital form in the future.
Further information and guidance for employers and line managers is available in the Department for Work and Pensions guide.
Impact on schools
Schools should highlight these new rules to anyone who is responsible for receiving and processing fit notes; most likely Bursars and HR Managers, to ensure they are up to date on the changed validity requirements.
We also recommend that schools review and update their sickness absence reporting procedures (where necessary) as these may refer to fit notes being required from a GP.