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Employers need to be aware of changes to fit note rules, says leading employment lawyer

EMPLOYERS across the UK are being made aware of recent changes allowing more health professionals to issue fit notes.

To reduce pressures on doctors, particularly GPs, the Government added registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists to the list of professionals who can certify fit notes providing evidence to employers about a person’s absence if they have been off work with illness for seven days or more.

Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR at Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, is raising awareness of the changes to businesses across the UK in case they incorrectly disregard fit notes not issued by a GP.

She said: “Up until recently, only a doctor or GP could legally certify a fit note so employers may be caught out by the changes if they’re unaware of the new law.

“Employers can no longer question the legitimacy of fit notes issued by other listed health professionals, and any disciplinary action for unauthorised absence following receipt of fit notes from a physiotherapist, therapist, registered nurse or pharmacist would be unfair.

“It’s really important that businesses are aware of these changes to prevent any misunderstandings with employees and any legal action in the future.”

Joanne added: “In addition to lessening the workloads of doctors, the changes to who can certify fit notes should empower better conversations about work and health between employers and staff by making it easier to get advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional, when an employee is seeing and receiving treatment from an alternative professional for their health condition.

“The requirement for the healthcare professional to sign the form in ink has also been removed. It is sufficient for the fit note to have the issuer’s name and profession and the address of the medical practice digitally on it instead.

“Fit notes can be fully generated by the health professional and sent digitally to employees.

“But beware – if a fit note does not include the healthcare professional’s signature or name then it should not be accepted as it may not be genuine.”

Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors has six offices across Cumbria and Northumberland including Brampton, Penrith, Cockermouth, Haltwhistle, and two in Carlisle, and its team can advise on all aspects of Employment Law.

Joanne Stronach, Head of Employment Law and HR, can be contacted at joanne.stronach@cartmells.co.uk.

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