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Absence

Resources and Information related to Absence from work

 

In May 2013 the Government supported the fact that employers may overrule a GP’s advice whether a person is fit to return to work. The little-noticed change was incorporated into new guidance on the fit note published by the Government in March 2013 and could allow employers to give precedence to the views of an occupational health professional over those of a GP. In the guidance for employers and line managers, under the headline “Is the fit note binding on me?”, the Government has made it clear that the answer is “no”.

The guidance goes on to explain that the assessment about whether an employee is fit or not fit for work (and any other advice in the fit note) is classed as advice, and it is for employers to accept it. The employer may believe that your employee is not fit for work when they have been assessed as fit for work by their doctor, or you may think that your employee could do some work when they have been assessed as ‘not fit for work’ by their doctor. The guidance continues:

“In situations like this the employer has the right to gather other evidence about your employee’s fitness for work from other doctors or healthcare professionals. You can choose to give this other evidence precedence over the advice in the fit note… Your employee may disagree with you, and if the employee takes you to an employment tribunal employers may need to demonstrate why the alternative source of evidence was more acceptable than the fit note from the treating GP.”

Occupational Health

Occupational health professionals would often be the chosen health care professional that an employer could go to for more advice as this professional would know the workplace very well and the options available to return to work. Often this has been the case and Occupational health professionals would work with both the employee and the GP to reach an amicable decision – however, in some cases it would be difficult to move the GP’s stance once set down in a Fit Note, this guidance from the Government will help clarify the OH professionals role in return to work plans for those absent from work.

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