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Fit Notes Failing to Get Employees Back to Work

By June 24, 2015July 30th, 2015HR Research

A survey has found that the majority of employers believe that the ‘fit note’ scheme has not resulted in earlier returns to work for their employees.


A survey by the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and Jelf Employee Benefits has found that only 22% of employers believe that fit notes encourage employees to return to work earlier. 43% believe that the scheme actually does not help employees to return to work, up from 35% in 2010.

Employers also told the survey that the quality of advice given by GPs regarding fit for work had gotten worse over the last five years.

The EEF used figures from a 2014 census to show that of 40,584 GPs, only 5,000 had received training in health and work. The federation suggests that this lack of training is causing the failure of the fit note, and that the government needs to put more resources in place.

The survey shows that employers tended to agree, as 47% thought that GP advice about fitness for work did not improve in 2014. Only 17% felt that GP advice had improved in that period.

EEF head of health and safety Terry Woolmer said: “We have supported the ‘fit note’ since day one and wanted it to succeed.”

“However, the evidence is now clear five years on that it’s not delivering on helping people back to work earlier. In fact, the evidence suggests that the quality of advice being given by GPs to help people back to work is deteriorating.”

“It can still be made to work but government now needs to put its shoulder to the wheel with greater resources. The first step must be to ensure that all GPs and hospital doctors are trained in health and work issues so they feel confident in giving proper advice. Without this as a basis there is little prospect of the ‘fit note’ ever delivering genuine improvement in return-to-work performance and absence reduction.”

The EEF concluded that in addition to more training, there needed to be increased interaction between GPs, employers and employees in order to make the fit note viable. This would also help to refocus a return to work as the resolution of illness, rather than a further complication.

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