NICE Publishes Advice for Employers – Unlike Most Fit Notes
NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has published guidelines for employers, making recommendations on improving the health and wellbeing of employees. The health watchdog says that the healthier workplaces it recommends will benefit the business, as well as its staff.
This guidance comes shortly after the EEF manufacturers’ organisation annual survey of sickness absence 2015 found that fit notes are failing to get staff back to work. In its survey, 43% of employers reported that fit notes are not enabling absent staff to return to work earlier, while as many as 29% of employers suggested it has made no difference.
Rather concerning (particularly five years after the fit note was introduced), the findings suggest that only 12% of GPs are trained in the use of the fit note.
From the 345 companies surveyed, 26% had not received any “may be fit for work” notes – an option that would support a return to work, subject to the recommendations of the medical professional being addressed. And the findings of the EEF survey also suggest that “employers are still reporting that the quality of the advice given by GPs is poor”.
The EEF annual survey has in recent years covered the issue of health & wellbeing benefits. It found that private medical insurance was the most commonly offered benefit/service (63% of respondents), but whether the NICE recommendations – which appear to be more about common-sense (i.e. to “Make communication clear to ensure that employees have realistic expectations of what’s possible, practical and affordable”) or are legally required (i.e. to “Develop and implement workplace policies and procedures to reflect statutory requirements”) – will be supported by improvements to the dispensing & contents of fit notes – which could inform employers what changes would assist their own absent staff: more specific advice & recommendations for an individual employer – is yet to be seen.