To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what standards the Government has put in place to assess whether a patient is physically healthy enough to return to work after illness; and what mechanisms are in place for appeals related to such assessments.
Registered Medical Practitioners, usually General Practitioners, assess whether a patient’s health condition affects their fitness for work. If this is the case, they may issue a Statement of Fitness for Work (or fit note) from the eight day of sickness indicating whether the patient is ‘not fit for work’ or ‘maybe fit for work taking account of the following advice’. The fit note is provided to the patient’s employer for sick pay purposes or to this Department to support a claim to health related benefits. The period the advice covers is recorded although if the patient feels able to return to work before the end date suggested they may return to work with their employer’s agreement. The information contained in the fit note is treated as advice for employers. There is no appeals process. A doctor may also refer the patient to Fit for Work for an occupational health assessment if they are likely to be off work for four weeks or more.
For Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance claimants, the Work Capability Assessment is the functional assessment used to determine whether or not claimants are fit for work. People dissatisfied with the decision on their claim can ask for a mandatory reconsideration and, if they remain dissatisfied, can then appeal the decision at the First-tier Tribunal.
The ‘Improving Lives’ Green Paper consultation sought views on how we can improve arrangements for supporting patient returns to work after illness and we are now considering the responses.