As from 6 April 2010 the various forms of workers’ sick note (also known as a medical certificate or a doctor’s statement) are to be replaced by a single fitness for work medical certificate or “fit note“.

The basic law is not changed. As now, from the eighth day of sickness absence employers will be able to require employees to provide formal medical evidence about their sickness to support a claim for Statutory Sick Pay (similar evidence is also required for claiming health related State benefits). Traditionally this has been done by the employee providing evidence in the form of a “sick note” from a doctor.

The general idea is that the new medical certificate will enable the doctor to say that a person may be fit for some work rather than simply that they are not ready to resume normal work.

The detail, including the wording of the new “fit note”, is contained in regulations (the Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, SI 2010/137). The regulations set out a form of medical certificate headed “Statement of Fitness for Work for Social Security or Statutory Sick Pay”. The main operative part, signed by the doctor and providing a space for notes, provides:

“I advise you that: you are not fit for work OR you may be fit for work taking account of the following advice: If available, and with your employer’s agreement, you may benefit from: a phased return to work; altered hours; amended duties / workplace adaptations”.

The government hopes that the change, which follows last summer’s extensive government consultation on “Reforming the Medical Statement”, will save the economy £240m over the next ten years by aiding the recovery and return of sick workers and maintaining their skills.