Fit notes and slavery

Posted: 14th April 2010

One of the established features on the employment landscape disappears this month. The “sick note” is replaced with a new statement of fitness for work, or fit note.

As the short title suggests, the new regime is intended to be far more positive, focusing on the question of what a sick or injured worker can do, rather than what they cannot.

It is part of a process of increasing social awareness of the importance of occupational health and the value of early intervention. A phased return to work can be the means to prevent comparatively simple problems and short-term absences developing into chronic physical and mental conditions.

The new procedure is intended to stimulate debate in cases where the employee is not ready to return to full duties with the aim of identifying at least something that they can reasonably do. For most people the workplace is a positive environment and getting them back amongst colleagues and friends, keeping them busy, can help speed recovery.

GPs have the responsibility for promoting these discussions. To assist them a new form of certificate has been produced. Click the following link to see a sample fit note.

These are early days and we look forward to seeing whether the new scheme really is fit for work!

Meanwhile, over-enthusiastic employers beware. The turn of the financial year also saw the introduction of new laws to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers including migrant workers with limited knowledge of English and/or employment rights.

The new offence of holding another person in slavery or servitude, or requiring another person to perform forced or compulsory labour, carries a maximum penalty of fourteen years in prison!