DWP publishes guidance on fit notes

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a guidance document on the government’s fit note system.

Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers explains what employers should do if they are given a fit note by an employee, what different sections of the fit note mean, and how it can be used most effectively.

The guidance was developed in consultation with professional bodies, such as Acas, the British Medical Association, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the Confederation of British Industry, EEF, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

It recommends that:

  • Employers should check how long an employee’s fit note applies for.
  • If an employee is fit for work, the employer should discuss their fit note and see if they can agree any changes that will help them come back to work.
  • If an employee is not fit for work, the employer should use the fit note as evidence for sick pay procedures.
  • Employers should consider taking a copy of the fit note for their records.
  • Employers should keep in touch with sick employees while they are away.

The documentation also offers some general rules about the fit note system, including that:

  • Employees can only be given a fit note if their doctor considers their work would be impaired.
  • Doctors cannot issue fit notes during the first seven calendar days of sickness absence.
  • Fit notes can be handwritten or printed, but must always be signed by a doctor. 
  • If a GP has issued a fit note, it should include the address of the practice.