11 June 2010 #Employment
Just 2 months after they were introduced by the Government in an attempt to combat sickness absence, it appears that the fit new note is open to misuse.
Despite being marketed as being for novelty use only, it has been identified that a website is selling fake versions of the new fit notes. For less than £10, the website is offering employees authentic looking replica doctors sick notes or medical certificates. It also promises that the notes will be written on official doctors` notepaper, with real stamp. Somewhat amazingly, individuals are even being enticed with offers such as "buy one get on free" on blank fit notes!
With commentary suggesting that it may be difficult for employers to tell the difference between a fake and a genuine fit note, it will be important for employers to check notes received carefully. As certain websites offer individuals the chance to have their notes stamped by doctors from medical centres in any UK city, it is open to employers (if suspicious) to contact the practice which issued the note in order to check its authenticity.
It is also useful for employers to revisit their sickness absence policies to check whether these give them the right to refer an employee to an independent doctor or occupational health advisor. Disciplinary action can be taken against employees who are found to have misused or submitted fake notes.
It is of course questionable as to the extent to which we will see the fake notes being used by employees in practice, particularly as a recent report (undertaken by the CBI and the drug company Pfizer) has revealed that employees took an average of 6.4 days off sick in 2009, the lowest figure recorded since the CBI poll began in 1987.