43% say fit notes do not aid return to work

Doctor health

Almost half (43%) of respondents believe that the government’s fit note is not helping staff to return to work, according to research by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Jelf Employee Benefits.

The study, which surveyed 345 employers, also found that less than a quarter (22%) of respondents think that the fit note has enabled staff to return to work earlier. This is down from 24% in 2010.

Further findings include:

  • 47% of respndents say that advice given by GPs about employees’ fitness to work has not improved, while 17% agree that it has improved.
  • Around a quarter (26%) of respondents did not receive any ‘may be fit for work’ fit notes in 2014, an improvement on 35% in 2010.
  • Just 41% of respondents say they are able to make all the required workplace adjustments for employees given ‘may be fit for work’ fit notes. Less than one in ten (8%) of respondents say they are unable to make any adjustments.

The fit note system was introduced in 2010.

Terry Woolmer, head of health and safety at EEF, said: “We have supported the fit note since day one and wanted it to succeed. However, the evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier.

“In fact, the evidence suggests that the quality of advice being given by GPs to help people back to work is deteriorating.

“It can still be made to work but government now needs to put its shoulder to the wheel with greater resources.

“The first step must be to ensure that all GPs and hospital doctors are trained in health and work issues so they feel confident in giving proper advice.

“Without this as a basis there is little prospect of the fit note ever delivering genuine improvement in return-to-work performance and absence reduction.”