The New Fit for Work Service
The government is in the process of rolling out the new Fit for Work Service. Currently employers and employees in South Yorkshire and parts of Wales can use the service and it is being rolled out across the country over the coming months.
The Fit for Work Service is designed to help employers manage sickness absence in the work place and it provides free advice about matters to do with health and work through a website and telephone advice line. The hope is that access to advice will help employers and employees manage and prevent absence. When an employee has been off sick for four weeks (or their GP expects them to be off for four weeks) employees can be referred for a free occupational health assessment.
The website is http://fitforwork.org and it is full of advice for employers, employees and GPs on a wide range of topics that affect workplace health and it also provides the facility to send questions via email to specialist occupational health advisers. There is also an advice line (0800 032 6235) which allows employers and employees to speak to an adviser.
Currently employees can be referred to the Fit for Work service for a free occupational health assessment by their GP. Employers will be able to make a referral directly from autumn 2015. The process will be voluntary as an employer is not required to refer and an employee’s consent is required before a referral can be made. If a referral is made in most cases it is anticipated that an occupational health professional will carry out a telephone assessment (and a face-to face assessment in a minority of cases) to assess the employee, to consider the obstacles preventing an employee’s return to work and to agree a Return to Work Plan to address the obstacles and to allow the employee to return to work. If the employee consents the Return to Work Plan will be provided to the employer. It is not mandatory for an employer to implement any recommendations but government guidance encourages all parties to act on the recommendations.
The Fit for Work Service will be particularly useful for smaller employers who do not already have access to occupational health services. If employers engage with the service and the employee constructively in the early stages of absence the employee is more likely to be able to return to work.
Every case is different so if you have any questions about what this article means for you please contact Simon Blake on 01756 700200 or [email protected] .