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Government announces review of fit notes and statutory sick pay

The Government published on 31 October 2016 a green paper that is to consult on the overhaul of the GP fit note and statutory sick pay, as well as reform the way that disabled people on sick leave are assessed for fitness for work.

Both the fit note, which replaced the sick note, and the assessment of fitness for work on long term incapacity benefits were introduced after the publication of Dame Carol Black's review of health and work in 2008. Since the fit note was introduced in 2010, surveys have shown employer frustration at GPs' reluctance to adopt the principle of the phased return to work.

In contrast, our members have seen the opposite, where it is the employer who is reluctant to adopt the GP’s recommendations of capabilities and light duties.

Rather than utilising a person whom is deemed by the GP as fit enough to carry out other duties, the employers’ preferred stance is to let the worker remain at home.  This makes no practical or economic sense.

By allowing the person to continuing on light duties they assist on speeding up their return to work while at the same time utilising that persons skills.

The green paper, published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), is titled "Work, health and disability”. The contents are asking for views from disabled people, employers and health professionals on how to reform statutory sick pay, GP fit notes and the Work Capability Assessment so that people on long-term sick leave are helped back to work.

It will also examine proposals including the introduction of a group committed to increasing employer engagement around disabled employment, and large-scale trials targeted at supporting disabled people and those with long-term health conditions back into work.

One proposal in the green paper suggests that employees who earn less than the statutory sick pay rate of £88.45 per week who returned to work on reduced hours would be able to top up their wages to the statutory sick pay level.