Tell me the truth about Fit Notes

So the big idea was that people who were off work due to illness might be able to do some work, perhaps not their regular work, or perhaps people returning to work while recovering from illness might be better having a graduated return.

Rather than simply signing people off work while ill and then back to work when able, the ‘Fit Note‘ is meant to replace the ‘Sick Note’ and get people back to work earlier. Except… that over the last few months I’ve become aware of employers only allowing people back to work gradually if they use their holidays to cover the days they aren’t working. For example, say someone is signed back ‘to a graduated return to work’. If the employee, say, starts back at 3/5 days a week, they are being expected to use holidays to make up the shortfall to their normal working week.

Is this what was intended? I am not a fan of the new Med 3 (the sick/fit note) anyway, but this seems pretty unfair – after all, it may be better for the employee to wait until they are better, can return to full duties –  and keep their holidays intact.

So if anyone is reading – is the use of holidays in such a way legally allowable? (I am being told that it is all in the contract – but this ‘fit note’ is new and most contracts won’t have anticipated it.) Is this what Fit Notes were meant to do? And why on earth would patients want one if they are going to end up being penalised?

2 Responses to “Tell me the truth about Fit Notes”

  1. Northern Doctor September 10, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    I can’t believe it is acceptable practice to get employees to use holiday but there will always be dubious employers. Legality? Not so sure but I’m sure the unions would crawl all over it – however, most people probably don’t have that option of course and as you say, most contracts won’t anticipate it.

    I actually quite like the Fit Notes – perhaps it is the ex-army background but I used to spend my whole life deciding on and signing ‘light duties’ chits. With sensible employers and patients it has worked really well to give some halfway house between the ridiculously black and white view of ‘fit’ or ‘not fit’.

  2. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney September 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    but surely, Northern D, we could do this before? The old Med 3s had a box to put in ‘special intructions’ where I was forever writing in things which I don’t think were ever taken up. The good employers were always able to negotiate starting back reasonably with patients directly.
    I’ve had some lawyers get in touch to say that they think the practice of asking employees to take holiday leave in order to start back gradually is legal. I don’t think that’s useful – people need holidays for lots of reasons.