It’s Sunday evening and the prospect of going into work isn’t half as appealing as watching another bout of Phil and Holly on daytime TV. Isn’t my throat just a little bit sore, or my nose prone to an extra wipe of the Kleenex? Time to throw a quick ‘sicky’ methinks…or is it?
April sees the launch of the new fit note – the note replaces the old sick note. This new government initiative follows the excellent and pioneering work of Dame Carol Black and in particular her report ‘Caring for a healthier tomorrow’.
Dame Black’s lobbying of Government has made ministers review the need to get Britain working properly as the cost to the economy of absenteeism is estimated to be an eye-watering (not conjunctivitis!) £100 billion per annum (see People Management, 25th February 2010, pp 19-22 for a fuller account).
However, despite the very laudable intentions to reduce absence and ensure employees are working well for their own health and wellbeing, the Jury’s out as to whether the new fit note is actually fit for purpose? If you were able to attend the 2010 PPMA conference on 23rd March, you would have heard Stuart Chamberlain of Croner, voiced concern about the practical implementation of the new fit note during his presentation on emerging employment law issues.
The concern includes the culture change for GP’s who have had years of looking at what patients can’t do rather than what they can do and the inevitable risk-aversion culture that is embedded when consideration is given to returning someone to work early.
GP’s may also struggle to understand the working context and environment of a patient and therefore be reluctant to advise early return.
The fit note is also unlikely to tackle all forms of short-term absence – such as my introductory tableau above.
Still, one good thing for HR practitioners is that line manager customers are likely to be knocking on your door to seek advice on how to make the necessary adjustments to employees’ work to comply with the fit note, or indeed, whether or not they should accept the recommendations made on the fit note in the first place. Let’s hope you don’t all become stressed out dealing with it!