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Fit Notes

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 2010

A Contradition of Terms – the Fit Note?

The trusty “sick note” has been around for a generation. Employers are all used to seeing the stark statement that an employee “should refrain from work for X days”. Typically the sick note referred to 7, 14 or 28 days, it wasn’t meant to be precise, and I never saw one for 13 days!

Apparently 175 million days are lost to sickness in the UK every year and this impacts on Salon Owners both in terms of cost and the potential impact on clients. There is also a major cost to the Government which pays for much of the sick pay bill. Reducing sick pay and reducing lost production was identified as one of the Governments areas for reducing public expenditure. Since April we now have the “fit note” and some readers will already have received one from their employees.

The Fit Note what is it?

It was introduced in April 2010 and is called the “Statement of Fitness to Work”. GP’s can still indicate that an employee is unfit to work but there is a box in which they can indicate when an employee might be fit for work. This might, for example indicate that the employee could return to work earlier if part time working could be agreed for a number of weeks. It might recommend that an employee could return to work if certain duties were temporarily removed. These are only the recommendations of the GP but normally anything that allows an employee to return to work earlier than would have been the case will be welcomed.

Will the fit note reduce absence?

Clearly it will do little to address the issue of short-term absenteeism as this is normally covered byself certification forms which will remain in use. Persistent absenteeism is a Management issue t be addressed by the salon owner. However, it is possible to see circumstances where employers will be able to comply with the GPs recommendation on the fit note and agree an employee could return to work earlier than would have been the case. If an employee only receives SSP (currently £79.15 Per week) it isn’t likely that there is a financial incentive to stay off work longer than necessary.

The Practical Implication

The Fit Note is only advisory, as the GP only has limited information relating to their patients job role and they are not Occupational Health experts. If salon owners are unable to comply with the GP’s advice eg adjusting the job content, you would simply treat the fit note as if the GP had advised the employee was unfit for the period identified. If there is any uncertainty you can ask the employee to return to their GP.

If an employee returns for example on a part time basis for 4 weeks what do I pay them?

They would normally be paid for the actual hours they work. An option is for the employee to use some leave to make up their hours to their normal amount.

One of the first queries I received regarding a Fit Note was:

“I have received a fit note for a therapist saying she could return if she was able to avoid prolonged standing for 3 weeks and work 6 hours a day. The suggestion is that she could carry out reception duties, what should I do?”

Very few salons pay their staff occupational sick pay (i.e. their normal pay for a number of weeks). If you fall in to this category then you might as well let the employee come back and carefully consider what additional tasks he/she could carry out for you as you are paying them anyway.. However, in most cases, the employee would only be receiving SSP. Clearly, if you need reception cover (e.g. for holidays) or can shuffle your existing staff then there are benefits for you both. It might be you have a long standing job or some promotion/marketing that the therapist could complete.

However, if this isn’t the case and reception is fully staffed you could legitimately say no.

THIS MONTHS QUESTION

I recently won my case at Employment Tribunal in March but despite all my efforts my former Employer will not pay. Is there anything I can do?

This happens very frequently, interest is payable on the award but the process for recovering the monies is complex and can be expensive often employees just give up.

Surprisingly, 39% of people granted awards by Tribunals have not been paid and 53% were not paid in full.

From 6th April, 2010 successful claimants can use the High Court Enforcement Officers. An Officer will complete the court processes for applicants and move on to enforcement as soon as possible. This is good news,you should contract your local Tribunal office for details.



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