Absence management is often one of the most difficult issues for employers.
The Government has published new guidance on fit notes (or statements of fitness for work), which can be found at www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/. This guidance encourages better use of fit notes, by using them to focus on what an employee can do to assist their return to work. Here are some of the important messages from the guidance:
- Assessments carried out by GPs should focus on what employees can do rather than what they cannot do in order to assist the process of getting back to work;
- If an employee’s fitness for work is not impaired by a specific health condition then this person is fit for work and a fit note should not be issued. This potentially means that employees suffering from work related stress may also need to demonstrate that they are impaired by a specific health condition (or mental illness) before they are issued with a statement of fitness for work;
- An employee can return to work at any time, even before the fit note ends;
- A fit note is not binding on an employer. The employer can make their own decision on whether an employee is fit to work and gather its own evidence from other health professionals.
The Government is therefore putting out a clear message that, even when off sick, employees should be encouraged to return to work.
PRE-TERMINATION SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS
In our June update we explained that employers will soon be entitled to have discussions with employees regarding possible termination of employment without those discussions being referred to in most claims for unfair dismissal. It has now been confirmed that this will come into effect on 29 July 2013. However, employers will need to be careful and ensure they do not act improperly, otherwise the discussions may be referred to.
Please let us know if you require any advice in respect of employment law.