Aon urges Occupational Health to foster ‘fit note’ culture
The DWP launched a consultation that paves the way for a new medical ‘fit note’ to replace the current ‘sick note’ culture. Charlotte Bray, Occupational Health consultant at Aon Consulting, has issued the following comment:
“This move to promote a ‘fit note’ culture is welcome and long overdue. The policy recognises that we need a system that can accommodate the majority of long-term sick cases, where people do not need to be 100% fit in order to do work of some capacity. Aon views the role of Occupational Health as critical to the success of achieving a ‘fit note’ culture.
Whilst we support the principle of encouraging people back to work, however, there are big questions that need to be answered to make the policy work. First, there will need to be clear communication between the DWP and GPs, who will have a key role in fostering a fit for work culture and supporting the individual by focussing on what functions they can perform.
Moreover, the new measures will place an extra burden on managers and HR, who will be expected to apply medical recommendations in the workplace. In the absence of any formal legislation requiring employers to implement doctor’s recommendations (apart from the Disability Discrimination Act), they will clearly need training and guidance in an area that has traditionally been kept well clear of the workplace.
In practice, Occupational Health expertise can help bridge the gap between the surgery and the office. There is already plenty of evidence that OH expertise helps people get back to work more quickly and efficiently but many employers, particularly SMEs, do not have access to these services, so widening access to OH has to be a priority.
Using OH represents a saving too, as bringing someone back to work in an appropriate role costs less than paying for long-term sickness.”
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