Fleet News

Government introduces ‘fit notes’ to get employees back to work

New employee ‘fit notes’, which have been introduced in place of old-fashioned ‘sick notes’ will require careful monitoring if staff affected drive as part of their job, according to leading fleet management software company Jaama.

The new Statement of Fitness for Work was introduced this week (April 6) by the Department for Work and Pensions in a bid to reduce the 172 million working days UK plc looses to employee sickness each year.

The new Statement of Fitness for Work allows GPs to advise employers on one of two options:

• Not fit for work: where their assessment of an employee is that they should not work for a stated period of time.

• The employee may be fit for work but may not be able to complete all of their normal duties or hours, or they may need some support to help them undertake their normal duties.

As a result of the introduction of ‘fit notes’ Jaama has updated its Key2 Vehicle Management software to enable fleet decision-makers to record individual changes to working practices that may be recommended by a GP.

The ability of Key2 software to also integrate with existing client software operated by departments such as HR, which is likely to be the depository for employees’ ‘fit note’ information, means that staff records should be automatically updated - particularly vital as driving against a GP’s advice could invalidate insurance.

However, the Key2 system will not just record whether staff are allowed or are not allowed to drive but all tasks their GP has ruled in or out - for example lifting goods or sitting for a specified period of time.

The change has been made by the Department against a background of evidence that reveals that:

• Work has therapeutic value and is generally good for physical and mental health.

• The longer an employee is off work, the lower their chances of getting back to work.

• In most cases an individual does not need to be 100% fit to return to work.

• People with common health conditions could be helped to return to work, as part of their recovery, following a few basic principles of healthcare and workplace management.

While there are Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency rules that employers should follow in relation to the fitness of employees who drive LGV (light goods vehicles) and PCV (passenger carrying) vehicles, there are no such rules governing company car or employees who drive their own vehicles on business trips.

Jaama managing director Jason Francis said: “If an employee had a ‘sick note’ they generally did not report for work and therefore did not drive. However, the introduction of ‘fit notes’ requires increased vigilance by employers.

“An employee may well be fit to undertake some of their duties, but may not be fit to drive. This may be due to the type of drugs they are being prescribed or the fact that sitting down in a vehicle may not help their condition.”

He added: “If a ‘fit note’ recommends no driving and an employee takes to the road and is then involved in a crash it could mean that insurance is invalidated.

“The Government’s reasoning behind the change and to encourage employees to work is to be supported, but it does mean that employers must have comprehensive details of what tasks affected staff are allowed to do when in possession of a ‘fit note’. Vigilance is without doubt the watchword.”

For best practice and legal advice, have a look at the fleet news legal section for more information.

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