With effect from 1 July 2022, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and physiotherapists are permitted to certify fit notes for employees.
Previously, only GPs could do this, which increased the demand on NHS appointments. The Government updated guidance for employers on fit notes now reflects these changes.
To obtain Statutory Sick Pay, an employee is still required to self-certify for the first week of their absence. Afterwards, if their sickness absence continues longer than a week, they also require a fit note, certified by a healthcare professional, indicating how much longer they will likely be off, and detailing, where appropriate, measures that the employer can take to facilitate a return to work.
When the certification of fit notes was the sole responsibility of GPs, employers would often experience delays in their submission due to employees being unable to obtain an appointment in time. However, with the pandemic appointment backlog, there has been increasing pressure on GPs to allocate more appointments.
Now, fit notes can be issued by other medical professionals, provided they have conducted an assessment on the individual's fitness to work. This follows changes implemented in April 2022, removing the requirement for fit notes to be signed in wet ink.
Overall, it is hoped that by allowing more flexibility around the certification of fit notes, greater efficiency will be achieved. In theory, this should mean that employees will find it easier to submit fit notes on time and employers won't need to spend as much time chasing missing documentation.
Employers should now review their sick pay policies and practices to ensure that these permit the submission by employees of fit notes certified by permitted healthcare professionals other than GPs.