Brit Health Expert Introduces Fit Note Concept to Aussie Workers

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By Vittorio Hernandez | May 12, 2014 8:48 AM EST

Dr Carol Black, a British doctor visiting Australia, introduced to the country the concept of the fit note as an alternative to the sick note which employees who are not feeling well use to rest from work and go home.

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Doctors and nurses attend a training course for the treatment of the H7N9 virus at a hospital, where a H7N9 patient is being treated, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in this April 5, 2013 file photo. Dutch scientists hidden away in a top-security laboratory in the Netherlands are seeking to create mutant flu viruses, dangerous work designed to prepare the world for a lethal pandemic by beating nature to it. To match feature BIRDFLU-MUTATIONS/SCIENCE REUTERS/Chance Chan/Files

Under the system, the note would indicate what tasks the employee is still capable of doing despite dealing with some ailment.

Black told federal workers and Comcare, a work place insurer, "I think it's a very unhelpful concept because if somebody labels you as sick, you emotionally and mentally start to think of yourself as sick."

She said that most of the time that employees take time off from work is due to some problems or worries that are containable and can deal with. "So I'd rather we looked at what people can do rather than what they can't do," Black added.

Under the fit note, employers would be required to assign the "sick" worker elsewhere within the organisation until the staff recovers. It could involve a change in environment, different working conditions or phased return to work.

It could include inviting the worker to take part in wellness programmes or changing their normal office hours.

According to the Australian Times, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews and Employment Minister Eric Abetz reportedly are supporting the concept, which could mean the fit note could be pilot tested in Canberra.

Black explained, "GPs have to learn a new language and to think differently because in the past we didn't know much about occupational health of the value of work. It's been a bit easy to sign the certificate without realising that if you sign a lot of those, people would leave the workplace."

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Doctors and nurses attend a training course for the treatment of the H7N9 virus at a hospital, where a H7N9 patient is being treated, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in this April 5, 2013 file photo. Dutch scientists hidden away in a top-security laboratory in the Netherlands are seeking to create mutant flu viruses, dangerous work designed to prepare the world for a lethal pandemic by beating nature to it. To match feature BIRDFLU-MUTATIONS/SCIENCE REUTERS/Chance Chan/Files
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