Are sick notes outdated in the New Zealand workforce?

A leading medical professional has suggested that New Zealand should scrap sick notes in favour of a system which has proven successful overseas.

Are sick notes outdated in the New Zealand workforce?
According to Professor Carol Black, expert adviser to the UK Government on health and work, replacing the traditional sick note with a ‘Fit Note’ is the way forward if New Zealand wants to ensure that its workforce is healthy and productive.

In New Zealand, workers take 6.1 million sick days annually, but according to Black, there are health benefits to attending work.

“The traditional ‘sick note’ from a GP doesn’t give the full picture of an injured or ill worker’s health, leading to misperceptions regarding their capacity to return to work,” she said in a statement.

“GPs should be given the option to nominate patients for a phased return to work, different hours, a get well program or changes to the workplace environment.”

Black was responsible for the introduction of the ‘Fit Note’ system into the UK in 2010.

Doctor David Beaumont, president of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), said that introducing the system into New Zealand would be beneficial for both employers and the workforce.

“With nearly 500,000 medical certificates issued each year, many of which just stating ‘Unfit for work for X period of time’ employers have no easy way to manage absence and no clear lines of communication with GPs,” he explained.

“The Fit Note provides the way to achieve that and encourages exchange of information.”

Professor Black will address an audience of physicians in Wellington today on the topic of ‘Health Benefits of Work’.
 

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