If an employee has been off sick for more than 7 days it is typical for an employer to request that the employee obtain a sick note, signed by a GP to certify the sickness.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic GP services have been under pressure and as a result it has become increasingly difficult for patients to see a GP. Therefore, in an attempt to help reduce the pressures on GP services the Government has introduced legislation that, from the 1st July 2022, will allow for other Healthcare Professionals to also certify fit notes. These Healthcare Professionals are:
- Registered UK Nurses
- Registered Occupational Therapists
- Registered Physiotherapists, and
- Registered Pharmacists
Questions? Us too!
Whilst hopefully the changes will ease the pressures on the GP services making it easier for patients to see their doctor, it may give rise to some concerns from employers. Although highly skilled in their own chosen professions, the four new categories have not undertaken the same level of training as GP’s, and therefore may not be able to make diagnostic assessments on the same basis.
It is also unclear if these healthcare professionals can certify fit notes for conditions that are outside of their professional remit – e.g. Physiotherapist certifying a chest infection. We’ll keep an eye on any clarification and keep you posted.
Even with these questions, it may prove difficult for an employer to challenge the validity of the fit note, given that it is usually all that is requested for Statutory Sick Pay purposes. HMRC also advises that it should normally be accepted as evidence of incapacity, unless the employer has strong grounds for believing otherwise.
In light of this change, there may be an increase in employers utilising Occupational Health practitioners at an earlier stage so that an assessment of capacity can be undertaken having regard to the features of the individual’s role, and whether any support or adjustments can be put in place to facilitate a return to work. This approach could have advantages over and above a fit note certified by a GP.
One to watch, any questions, get in touch with the team.