Press release

Better advice on helping patients back into work launched

Better support to get back into work through new fit note guidance.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Staff on sick leave will have better support to get back into work through new fit note guidance.

The guidance advises doctors on how they can give the most useful advice about what patients can do at work and how they can return to the workplace as soon as possible. Advice could include exploring a period of home working or different ways of working.

The guidance, based on research and feedback from patients, GPs and employers, is designed to help people use the fit note to its full potential by looking at what a person can do, rather than what they can’t. Employers and patients can then use the fit note to look at what can be done to help an individual back into work.

Dr Bill Gunnyeon, Chief Medical Adviser for the Department for Work and Pensions, said:

The fit note can be valuable in helping people return to work quickly and avoid long-term absence and potential job loss - this revised guidance helps doctors, employers and patients use it to its full potential.

The guidance clarifies that the fit note is about someone’s general fitness for work and is not tied to their most recent job, allowing flexibility to discuss what changes could help someone do some work.

It also includes:

  • Improved question and answer sections based on common queries
  • Explanation about how a fit note indicates whether a patient is expected to be fit for work when it expires
  • Ideas for patients and employers about possible changes to accommodate the advice in the fit note
  • Clarification about the legal status of the fit note in relation to sick pay, situations where an employer cannot make any changes, and non-medical problems at work
  • Details about the computer generated fit note
  • More information on further resources, with links to DWP programmes as well as charity and occupational health support

The original guidance explained how the fit note differed from the sick note when it was launched three years ago. The fit note considers what work someone might be able to do when their condition is taken into account, rather than what they can’t do under the previous sick note system.

The revised guidance for employers, patients and GPs is available at

Published 6 March 2013