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New "Fit Note" looks set to help patients stay in work

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Britain's "sickness culture" is estimated to cost the economy some £100 billion and 172 million working days every year – but a local solicitor believes that this is all set to change next spring. "This is when the Government is planning to introduce the so-called 'Fit Note' which may replace the sick note that GPs have used for over 60 years to sign people off work," says Jonathan Insley of Gepp & Sons in Chelmsford. The electronic fit note has been developed with the support of healthcare officials, employer representatives and Trade Unions. "What will be really different about the new system is the flexibility it will give GPs to judge what their patients are capable of doing in the workplace," Jonathan Insley continues. "For example, instead of having to say that a patient cannot work just because a back condition prevents them from lifting or bending, the GP can suggest they are given other duties until they are fully recovered." As the fit note will be computer generated it will be much easier for GPs to regularly update a patient's record of what they can and cannot do, which will benefit employee and employer alike. Doctors, employers, trade unions and other stakeholders will have approximately 12 weeks to comment on how they think the new system should be designed. "I believe it will really help people who have a disability or long-term medical condition to keep their jobs, when at the moment they are in danger of becoming one of the 300,000 people who move out of employment and on to incapacity benefits each year," he says. "In addition, it will enable employers to retain their experience, which can be particularly important in difficult economic times such as today." He warns, however, that the new system may have an impact on the wording of the contracts of employment used by many businesses, both large and small. "If you feel you need professional advice on how contracts will most likely change, please call our employment law team on 01245 228106," he says. "They would be very happy to help." - ends - Notes to editors: • For additional information or comment please contact: Jonathan Insley of Gepp & Sons.