On 1 July 2022, the UK government expanded the list of health care professionals (“HCPs”) that can now issue fit notes to include nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists, in addition to doctors. HCPs with relevant training or qualifications will be able to provide advice on appropriate adjustments to a patient’s workplace or job to allow them to remain in or return to work. This follows the introduction of a new version of the fit note in April 2022 removing the requirement for a signature in ink and replacing this with the issuer’s name and profession.
While the new Regulations may have some benefits for employers, in particular that many employees will be able to return to work quicker if they don’t have to wait for a GP appointment to be deemed fit for work, many employers will understandably be concerned that this change will result in misuse by malingering employees. An employer should generally trust an employee’s word, so it is inadvisable to question a fit note, regardless of who it was issued by, unless or until there is reason not to.
If there is cause for doubt about the legitimacy of the employee’s illness then that is when an occupational health assessment should be arranged. This will allow an employer to tailor an assessment to the particular requirements of the individual’s job role and ask the consultant specific questions about the employee’s abilities.