The government is likely to ignore calls for an explicit reference to the need for reasonable adjustments in the workplace to be included on its new electronic “fit note”.
The government hopes the fit note will be more flexible than the current “sick note” and will allow GPs to advise those with health conditions when it would be appropriate for them to return to work.
Employers will then be able to discuss with their employee any possible changes to the workplace or job that would allow them to resume work.
The call for an explicit statement about reasonable adjustments on the form was made at a conference organised by Surrey Supported Employment and attended by Dame Carol Black, the government’s national director for health and work.
The fit note was one of the measures announced by the government in response to Dame Carol’s 2008 report into the health of Britain’s working age population.
Adam Lotun, director of the consultancy Workplace Disability Adjustments, suggested to Dame Carol that the fit note should explicitly state that the individual could return to work if the appropriate reasonable adjustments were made.
But a spokesman for Dame Carol’s health, work and wellbeing office said it was “unlikely” that something as specific as workplace adjustments would be included on the fit note form, in order to keep it “simple and user-friendly”.
But he said the information would probably be included in the associated guidance for GPs and employers.
He said Dame Carol “would say that implementing things like workplace disability adjustments” was “really important” and there should be space on the form for a GP to mention such a need.
But he said feedback from a consultation on the fit note was still being processed.
Lotun welcomed the confirmation that reasonable adjustments would probably be mentioned in the guidance, but said: “It has not gone quite far enough. They have listened but they have not understood.”
He said he would not want to rely on a busy doctor to include a mention of reasonable adjustments on the form.
He added: “It is necessary to have this reference explicitly on the form so the employer understands that they must make all possible reasonable adjustments and implement them in order for the individual to return to their duties.”
The fit notes are due to be rolled out across Britain next spring.
9 October 2009