Winter staff sickness – what does the law say?

It’s that time of year when the weather can start to have an impact on the wellbeing and health of staff.

Winter cold and cough season is upon us, and it can definitely affect attendance at work. And for anyone who has an underlying, on-going medical condition, the seasonal changes can make matters worse.

But what does the law say about staff absence through sickness?

The Fit Note

Back in April 2010, the Fit Note was launched to help staff get back to work as soon as they could.

One issue has been how willing GPs would be to sign off people as ready to return to work after illness, and even how able they would be to do this, given they are not occupational health practitioners.

Reports say that increasingly GPs are using the option ‘may be fit for work’, however, while bigger employers can always seek advice from occupational health practitioners.

The Fit for Work service

For smaller firms, the Fit for Work service is a voluntary, UK-wide scheme that may be more appropriate in supporting staff who have been on a long-term absence through sickness.

Staff members must agree to be referred, have been off work for at least a month and have a realistic chance of being able to go back. The service offers a 45-minute phone assessment with a suitably qualified health professional – details can be found at

What should employers do?

1. Have a clear policy in place and make everyone aware of it and apply it consistently and fairly
2. Monitor staff absences properly
3. Interview staff when they get back
4. Consider reasonable adjustments requested for anyone who may struggle more in the winter

Talk to us at Marlow Braide if you need further advice, especially if you feel badly treated by an employer who hasn’t followed the procedures outlined above.

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