BHSF is calling on the government to clear up confusion surrounding Fit Notes, to be introduced at the beginning of April.
BHSF says many employers are concerned that not enough information has been published about how the system, which will replace sick notes, will work.
David Nuttall, BHSF’s HR and Operations Director, said: “We are aware that many GPs and employers are in the dark and we urgently need clarity over how the system will operate.
“Employers need to know if they should no longer accept old Sick Note when the new legislation comes into force. In the absence of guidelines, little training in the new system has been delivered by companies.”
BHSF Sales and Marketing Director Brian Hall has first-hand knowledge of the problems, having attended several seminars on the subject.
He said: “The idea of Fit Notes, championed by Dame Carole Black, is a sound one, as it seeks to address the issue of those who may not be fully fit, but who could still perform a useful function within the workplace.
“It addresses the belief that being away from the workplace for any longer than necessary is not good for the employee’s long-term health.
“It should be a great step forward but there are issues every employer needs to think through.
Firstly, the GP is there for the benefit of their patient, not to advise the employer. GPs spend many years carefully building long-term and close relationships with patients in order to better help them in times of need.
“The GP is unlikely therefore to challenge the validity of an employee’s claim that they are unable to work, in any robust manner.
“Employers need also to beware of making ill-informed judgements about employees. When a fit note declares someone suitable for a return on reduced hours or capable of a phased return, it is then up to the employer (often a line-manager) to decide if and how to implement this.
“Doing this without their own medical input/advice could be a risk in the longer term; it certainly throws into sharp relief the need for proper ‘return-to-work’ interviews for all returning staff.
“This will come down to proper process. The new system will need clear guidelines for managers, employment contracts that are fit for purpose and up-to-date, and will require line-managers to be trained in the ‘how to’ of return-to-work.”
As a not-for-profit provider of HR services and employee benefits, BHSF is now seeing a rise in enquiries for services, such as occupational health nurse assessments and reviews of contracts, handbooks and other employment guidelines.
Added Mr Hall: “Coming on top of revised guidelines from the General Medical Council about the use of private medical assessments, the Fit Note will change the employment landscape in terms of managing sickness absence and employers will do well to review the resources they have in place to cope.”
Employers seeking further advice should contact Brian Hall on 0121 629 1218.