February 25, 2015

The new ‘Fit for Work Service’

The new ‘Fit For Work’ service is due to launch in April 2015- but what is it and how will it affect you as an employer?

Nearly one million employees each year reach the four-week absence point, at an annual cost of around £9bn to employers in sickness payments and related costs.

In addition, the Government spends around £13bn on health-related benefits.  Employees also miss out on around £4bn a year in lost earnings, with around 300,000 employees each year moving out of employment and on to benefits due to health-related issues.

Fit for Work (FfW) is designed to assist employers in England, Scotland and Wales in helping their employees, who are off work due to sickness, to get back to work as soon as is appropriate.

What is it?

The Fit for Work service is a new service offering:

  • Free, expert and impartial work-related health advice, either on-line or by telephone
  • Referral to an occupational health professional for employees who have been off sick (or who are likely to be off sick) for four weeks or more.

The advice line for the Fit for Work service is now live, which means that you can call or email for occupational health advice regarding an employee’s sickness absence.

There will be a phased roll-out of the referral service – details of when referrals can be made in your area can be found using the following link:

www.gov.uk/government/collections/fit-for-work-guidance

What are the benefits of the service?

Some benefits of Fit for Work include:

  • Helping to reduce sick pay costs by enabling employees to return to work earlier
  • Helping employers to manage sickness absence
  • Supporting employees who are off sick, in a way that is right for them
  • Promoting recovery and helping to prevent harmful physical, mental and social effects of long-term sickness absence

How does it work?

In most cases, a referral will be made by the employee’s GP (with the employee’s consent) either after four weeks or, where they feel the absence will be at least four weeks, when the diagnosis has been made.  However, in certain circumstances, the employer may make a referral (again with the employee’s consent) if the GP hasn’t done so by the four-week point.

An assessment will be made and a Return to Work Plan drawn up which provides advice and recommendations on how to get your employee back to work.  If you have a Return to Work Plan, you will not need a Fit Note from the GP.

However, it isn’t mandatory for the employer to refer the employee, nor for the employer to follow the recommendations set out in the Return to Work Plan.

What if we already have Occupational Health on site?

If you already have your own Occupational Health Service, this new service isn’t intended to replace it, but to work along-side.  It will be especially useful in businesses who have limited or no access to their own Occupational Health specialist.

Contact details for the Fit for Work Service are as follows:

England and Wales:

  • www.fitforwork.org
  • Tel: 0800 032 6235
  • Opening hours – Advice: Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.00pm
  • Opening hours – Assessment: Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.00pm

Welsh Language Line:

  • www.fitforwork.org
  • Tel: 0800 032 6233
  • Opening Hours – advice: Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.00pm
  • Opening Hours – Assessment: Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6.00pm

Scotland:

  • www.fitforworkscotland.scot
  • Tel: 0800 019 2211
  • Opening hours – advice: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm
  • Opening hours – assessment: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 8.00pm

Guides are available for Employers, Employees and GPs via the following link:www.gov.uk/government/collections/fit-for-work-guidance

If you need further advice, please contact us.

By Elaine Pritchard

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