New legislation in Northern Ireland will allow more healthcare professionals to certify fit notes

New legislation has been introduced in Northern Ireland to allow a broader range of healthcare professionals to certify fit notes, which could previously only issued by a doctor.

The legislation will enable authorised nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists to certify and issue fit notes along with doctors.

This change will allow patients to receive advice and fit notes from their healthcare professional, without having to separately see a doctor.

Fit notes are also known as a statement for fitness to work and are issued to patients whose health condition impacts their ability to work. If an employee has been off work due to a health condition for more than seven days, a fit note provides evidence to their employer of their absence and offers relevant advice on how to support them to remain in or return to work. They also provide evidence for potential claimants of benefits for those who are out of work or off sick.

The legislation recognises the significant role other healthcare professionals have in providing health and work life balance advice as well as assisting employees to remain in work, where possible.

Allowing a wider range of healthcare professionals to certify and issue fit notes will support and promote better conversations surrounding work and health between employers and their employees by making it easier to obtain advice certified by the most relevant healthcare professional.

The change also compliments the healthcare system as a whole by allowing for, and assisting, the enhanced move towards a diverse and multi-disciplinary workforce whilst also reducing the demand on doctors.

In the future, it is intended for fit notes to become fully digital, meaning that they could be certified electronically and would no longer need to be signed in ink. This should reduce delays surrounding issuing fit notes and ensure that they are more readily accessible, which should be of assistance to both employers and employees.

Please contact our Employment Team for more information