Employers in England and Wales are able, from today, to refer employees to Fit for Work, the government service set up to help working people on long-term sickness absence.
Fit for Work provides occupational health services to people who have been, or are likely to be, off work for four weeks or more. It is particularly aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that have little or no occupational health support.
Fit for Work resourcesFit for Work service: policies and documents updated
Line manager briefing on long-term sickness absence
How to deal with employees on long-term sickness absence
Letter explaining to managers and occupational health the role of the Fit for Work service
A YouGov poll in 2013 found that 31% of workers were employed by organisations that offered no occupational health support.
Welfare reform minister Lord Freud said: “The longer someone remains out of work due to sickness, the greater the cost to their career, income and future earnings.
“Fit for Work will ensure that people get the right help when they need it to get back to work so they can continue to support themselves and their families.”
Fit for Work is also available to larger employers, where it can help complement existing occupational health provision.
David Frost, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, who authored the independent review of sickness absence with Dame Carol Black in 2011, commented: “Employers have asked for a service that will provide rapid access for their employees to get practical advice on the support they need to make a return to work.
“The evidence is clear – the longer a person is out of work the harder it becomes to make a successful return to their job.
Fit for Work FAQsDo employees have to give their consent for a referral to the Fit for Work service to be made?
Is it mandatory for employers to follow the recommendations in a return-to-work plan provided by the Fit for Work service?
If an absent employee has a return-to-work plan provided through the Fit for Work service, does he or she also have to provide the employer with a fit note?
Within two working days of a referral to Fit for Work, the employee will receive an in-depth consultation with an occupational health professional who will explore all the issues that might be preventing a return to work.
This will include work-related and wider personal issues as well as health matters. They will then work with the employee to agree a personalised return-to-work plan.
Research carried out on behalf of Health Management, which is providing the Fit for Work service, showed that more than half of employers said they could do more to support and help employees returning to work after a prolonged sickness absence.
The service is already open in Scotland, but referrals can currently only be made by phone.
My Comment : I've tried to access this once already for a client, they certainly don't make it easy! Talk about red tape, after three days we gave up, and went back to the tried and tested method of sending the employee to OH, and paying for a report.