POA Circulars

116 | 09.09.2010

Fit notes

The Executive have had many queries in relation to fit notes.  I hope this Circular assists the membership.

From 6th April 2010, the fit note replaced the sick note.

The fit note is evidence for why you cannot work due to illness or injury.  You still don’t need the fit note as evidence until after your seventh calendar day of sickness.

How is the fit note different?

With the fit note, your GP can choose one of two options:

  • you are ‘not fit for work'
  • you ‘may be fit for work'

The fit note also includes:

  • more space for your GP to give general advice about the impact of your illness or injury
  • tick boxes for your GP to suggest, where appropriate, common ways in which your employer could support your return to work

What does ‘may be fit for work’ mean?

Your GP will choose the ‘may be fit for work’ option if they think that returning to work – with support from your employer – will help you.

Your GP can give general advice on the fit note about how your illness or injury may affect your ability to work.  For example, your GP may suggest possible changes, such as:

  • a phased return to work
  • working different hours temporarily
  • performing different duties or tasks
  • having other support to do your job

Returning to work

If your GP has indicated that you may be fit for work, your fit note will give your employer the information needed to begin a discussion on whether you can return to work.

If it is not possible for your employer to accommodate the changes suggested by your GP, you will not be able to return to work until you have further recovered.  In such circumstances you can use the fit note as if your GP said you were not fit to work, you will not need to see your GP for a new fit note. 

Your employer may refer you to their Occupational Health Advisor for advice regarding your GP’s suggestions and/or to see if you are fit to return to work.  Relying on the lead cases of East Lindsey District Council –v- G E Daubney and Liverpool Area Health Authority (Teaching) Central & Southern District-v- Edwards, the Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of First Manchester Limited –v- Kennedy said that an employer can rely on the advice of its Occupational Health Advisor.  That is to say your employer does not have to accept the view of your GP and can prefer the advice of its Occupational Health Advisor.

If your GP says you may be fit for work and you don’t need any changes made to your role to allow you to return to work, but your employer refers you to Occupational Health anyway, you should ask your employer to be put on paid special leave and for an expedited referral to Occupational Health. 

Disabled Members

An employer is still under a duty to make reasonable adjustments. Regulation 4A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 provides that an employer is under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments where a provision, criteria or practice applied by an employer or any physical feature of premises places the disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to persons who aren’t disabled.

If you are disabled for the purpose of the Act and your fit note states that you may be fit for work, but your employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments for you to return to work, you may have a employment law claim pursuant to Regulation 4A.  You must be disabled and the provision, criteria, practice or feature of the premises must place you at a substantial disadvantage compared to non disabled person. 

Legal Advice

If you are in doubt and believe your employer has acted unreasonably in refusing to allow you to return to work before being seen by Occupational Health and/or re-instating your pay, you should raise a grievance and submit an application for legal advice at the same time.

If you are disabled and your employer has failed to make reasonable adjustments to allow you to return to work, you should raise a grievance and apply for legal advice at the same time.


Yours sincerely

General Secretary