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    OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH DEVELOPMENTS

    ‘Fit Notes’ and Health Adviceline to support earlier returns to work

    From 6 April 2010, doctors will be able to advise if a patient ‘may be fit for work’ and offer advice on the effects of their health condition. Patients may be declared able to work if temporary changes e.g. reduced hours / amended duties could be accommodated.

    A new occupational health adviceline is being extended to give every small business in Britain easy access to professional occupational health advice from 1 April 2010.

    Changes to cut the cost of sick leave 

    The government hopes that introduction of the fit note, in place of the traditional sick note, will cut the cost of sick leave for employers. It is expected to benefit the British economy by an estimated £240 million over the next ten years.

    Lord McKenzie, Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions said:

    “The fit note will reduce the costs employers often have to bear when people are off sick for a long time. We know work is good for people’s health. With the right support in place, employers and doctors can work with employees to help them get back to work sooner.”

    Guidance on the Fit Note published

    Guidance on the fit note has been published today following consultation with business groups and medical representatives. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is urging employers and doctors to visit www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote.

    The new guidance has been created by the DWP with the Royal College of General Practitioners, British Medical Association, CBI, Acas, Federation of Small Businesses, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Association of British Insurers, British Retail Consortium and EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

    The fit note reflects medical evidence that work is generally good for health and well-being and can aid recovery for many health conditions.

    Practical adjustments prevent long-term sickness

    Making simple, practical adjustments to help people back to work at an earlier stage will benefit both the employer and the employee. This will prevent long-term sickness absences and will also ensure employers do not lose the expertise of their staff.

    Dame Carol Black, National Director for Health and Work said:

    “Work plays a significant role in determining a person’s health. The fit note is a hugely important development which means that GPs will be encouraged to think about their patient’s ability to work and provide more helpful information to patients to discuss with their employer. This is why the fit note is a win-win for both employees and employers.”

    Occupational health helpline extended

    As small businesses are most likely to benefit from access to further occupational health advice, a new occupational health adviceline is being extended to give every small business in Britain easy access to professional occupational health advice from 1 April.

    Sources of occupational health information and advice

    HSE Construction Division provides advice on managing health risks in construction and Constructing Better Health (CBH) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to improving the health of the construction industry workforce.

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