The TUC has called on employers to work closely with unions to ensure that the Government’s soon to be introduced ‘fit notes’ work to the benefit of the thousands of workers in the UK who are made ill or injured every year as a result of their jobs.

The challenge to employers comes as the TUC publishes a guide to the new method for reporting sickness, which will see changes to the current system of issuing sick notes. From 6 April 2010 GPs will be able to assess an individual worker’s suitability to return to work, and where appropriate, suggest a return to a certain type of work, even if it’s not to do their original job.

Commenting on the new guide called Changes to the Medical Certificate, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Good employers already assist their workers who are on long-term sick leave to return to work on a phased or a supported basis. The new ‘fit note’ arrangements will hopefully lead to more workers being given the support they need to return after an illness or injury.

‘But GPs may not have a detailed enough knowledge of where someone works to be able to make realistic recommendations for changes to an individual’s workplace or duties to allow the worker to have the confidence to return before they are able.

‘Similarly many employers lack the occupational advice support needed to act on a doctor’s recommendations. That’s why we’ve produced this guide to get employers and unions working together to get round any problems the changes could create.

‘If employers use the additional information on the revised medical certificate to work with individuals who want to get back to work, and give them the support they need, this could help reduce sickness absence. But if employers see the changes as a green light to force workers back to work before they are well enough to return, in the long run, it will only lead to increased sickness absence and unnecessary conflict.’

The TUC advice was issued to complement guidance to employers published by the Department for Work and Pensions today.

Free Fit Note Guide

-Changes to the Medical Certificate is available at