Government changes fit note certification legislation

fit notesThe Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have amended legislation to enable nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists to certify fit notes as of 1 July 2022.

According to the legislation, these healthcare providers (HCPs) will be able to legally certify a fit note, which can enable an individual to access health-related benefits and provide eligibility evidence for statutory sick pay; however, they are not required to do so.

The government said that, before undertaking health and work conversations and certifying fit notes, HCPs should consider their scope of practice and ensure they have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience.

This decision was agreed following engagement with and advice from the DHSC, chief allied health profession officers, chief nursing officers, chief pharmaceutical officers, professional bodies, regulators, and policy officials across all four UK nations.

The aim of making this change was to provide a seamless, faster system for patients, improve continuity of care, reduce bureaucracy in the healthcare system, and fully utilise the skills of relevant HCPs. It is also expected that patients and employers will benefit.

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This change follows public engagement and research on the policy by DWP, several papers and a report published on the topic over the past few years, as well as broad public support.

Paul Reeves, head of employment and partner at law firm Stephenson Harwood, said: “Many employers will have policies and provisions which refer specifically to fit notes from doctors. Employers should review their sickness policies in staff handbooks and sickness provisions in their contracts of employment and update them as necessary.”