· News

DWP launches guidelines to help employers manage sickness absence

New guidance goes live today to help British businesses manage staff sickness absence.

Guidance explaining what the fit note means for businesses is being published today (19 February) following extensive consultation with business groups and medical representatives. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), backed by a coalition of business groups, is urging employers to visit: www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote

The new guidance has been created by the Department for Work and Pensions with the CBI, Acas, Federation of Small Business, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, EEF, Association of British Insurers and the British Retail Consortium. The Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association have also worked closely with the Department to advise on policy. The fit note reflects medical evidence that work is generally good for health and well being and can aid recovery for many health conditions.

According to the (DWP) the introduction of the fit note on 6 April 2010, in place of the traditional sick note, is set to cut the cost of sick leave for British employers and benefit the UK economy by an estimated £240 million over the next ten years.

Under the new fit note system, GPs will be able to advise if a patient "may be fit for work" and will offer advice on the effects of their health condition. Doctors will also have the option to suggest that their patient would be able to work, subject to the employer's agreement, if temporary changes such as reduced working hours or amended duties could be accommodated.

Caroline Waters, director, people and policy at BT Group said: "There are clear benefits to both employers and employees of adopting a flexible approach where individuals are recovering from a lengthy sickness absence.  Often only a relatively minor adjustment of hours or workplace is needed to enable valuable talent to remain in the business and avoid recruitment and induction costs."

Dame Carol Black, who was responsible for conducting an independent review for the Government on the health of Britain's working age population, added: "Work plays a significant role in determining a person's health. The fit note is a hugely important development, which means that GPs will be encouraged to think about their patient's ability to work and provide more helpful information to patients to discuss with their employer. This is why the fit note is a win-win for both employees and employers."

For more information on 'sick note Britain', click here.