The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) recently announced changes to the legislation that stipulates who is authorised to certify fit notes to patients.

From the 1st of July 2022, fit notes can be certified and issued to employees by a wider range of healthcare professionals including nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors.

This is the second change introduced to the fit note this year. In April 2022, an updated version of the form replaced the need for a physical signature, enabling a digital version to be provided electronically. Any professional certifying the form will need to include the issuers name and professional qualifications.

If employers receive a digital or printed version from a GP’s system, it will contain a bar code. Employers can scan the barcode using a QR code scanner so that the details can be added to their sickness records.

All other conditions remain unchanged, and the fit note is required for sickness absence exceeding 7 calendar days advising employers on the fitness of the employee to carry out their duties.

Employers should take a copy of the fit note for internal records, but the employee should keep the original as they may need it for benefits or other purposes.

Fit notes can be backdated for a period of up to 2 weeks and will usually cover a period of 4 weeks absence.

In theory, there should be no change to the way employers monitor sickness absence. Furthermore, employers should avoid any unjust challenges of sickness claims on the basis the fit note has not been issued by a GP. Employers should consider updating their internal absence policy to reflect this change in legislation.