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23rd June 2017
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SOAPBOX: What does the new 14 day self-certification proposal mean for patients and employees?
With self-certification to be extended to 14 days, the Faculty and Society of Occupational Medicine discuss the benefits of the current 7-day system for patients and employees.
Following calls for self-certification to be extended to 14 days we think it's important that the case is stated for why the current period of seven days works well for patients and employers.
We understand the strain GPs are under but from a patient perspective it is in their best interest to have a conversation sooner rather than later about how they might best return to work if they 'may be for fit for work'. That conversation starts with their GP and their employer.
The fit note will state the employee if the employee is 'not fit for work' or 'may be fit for work'. If advising that the employee 'may be fit for work', employers should discuss potential adjustments with the employee that might help them return to work and stay in work (e.g. different hours, amended tasks).
Getting employees successfully back to work is in everyone's interests. Stable employment is important to good health and Occupational Health professionals argue employment should be seen as a health outcome in and of itself. The longer an employee is off work the more difficult it is to return successfully.
Too often with returning to work it's all or nothing, with employers being overly risk averse. Employers can be reluctant to take someone back into the workplace until they are fully fit; however those who access to Occupational Health value the advice they get on how to support their employees return, and they understand that returning at the right time aids recovery. This isn't good for either employee or employer. It is important that 'may be fit for work' is used as an opportunity to encourage employers to make suitable adjustments, not just within the workplace environment, but within the work itself, to enable an employee to transition back in a successful way.
Health at work - an independent review of sickness absence found 'Employers rely on the fit note as evidence to verify that sickness absences of over seven calendar days are justified, and to inform them when an individual is, or is expected to be, fit enough to return to work. Employers also rely on fit notes to identify those cases where an employee has a health condition which limits function, but could work if given sufficient support.' So a Fit Note written by the clinician who knows the patient does help, and an early conversation can reduce the risk of long term absence, or the individual falling out of work, and detriment to their health and wellbeing.
10th June 2016