24 June 2016

The annual conference of the British Medical Association is to debate a call for workers to be allowed to self-certify sickness for up to two weeks instead of the current system where they have to provide a "fit note" after one.

Dr Richard Vautrey, who sits on the BMA's GPs committee, has argued that the time doctors spend dealing with this requirement could be better spent offering appointments to patients who may need them more.

"If you’ve got a patient who very clearly has an illness that is going to last 10 days to two weeks," he questioned, "why do they need to make an appointment with a GP just to get that note to tell their employer what their employer probably knows already and what the patient should be trusted to be able to pass on?"

However, a campaigning group called Patient Concern has described two weeks' off work without a sick note as far too much with one of its co-founders, Joyce Robins, saying "sounds to me like a skiver's charter".

Arguing that self-certification is only appropriate for short-term absences, Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI, said: "The electronic fit note is a simple process to enable employers to understand how sick their employee is and what they can do when they return to work."

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), has also voiced concerns that the move could lead to a rise in absenteeism.

The Government has confirmed that it has no plans to change the existing policy.