March 19, 2018

Official: The End of Fit for Work Health Assessments

Did you ever refer an employee to the Fit for Work Assessment service? No? Well if you didn’t you weren’t alone, as the Department for Work and Pensions has now confirmed this free service will be mothballed on 31 March (31 May in Scotland) due to low referral rates.

The Fit for Work Assessment Service was designed to provide occupational health assessments for employees to help manage sickness absence, and launched in early 2015 as part of the coalition Govt’s drive to get one million more disabled people in work.

So, what is closing and what services will be retained?

The DWP has confirmed that employers, employees and GPs will be able to continue to use the Fit for Work advice helpline, website and web chat, which offer general health and work advice as well as support on sickness absence.

What are we going to miss?

The scheme gave employers and GPs the power to refer employees for a free occupational health assessment when they had been absent from work for four weeks or more. A return to work plan would be created and any appropriate medical interventions documented within it.

So what should employers do now?

It is important employers monitor and address all sickness absence. If they have an occupational health provider appointed then this change will have no impact, but if they relied on this service as part of their absence management process then they will need to find a suitable alternative is put in place for their employees.

Occupational health assessments are a key support tool in assisting an employee return to work. Employers have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for employees whose medical condition falls within the definition of a disability:

‘a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities’

Could an expanded or modified Fit Note scheme fill the gap?

The Govt announced a strategy last year to fill the gap left by the removal of the assessment service, including expanding the current Fit Note scheme to enable a wider group of healthcare professionals (i.e. physiotherapists, psychiatrists, senior nurses) to write one.

The intention is to better tailor the support an employee requires to return to work to their individual needs. However, this Govt plan is subject to change.

Advice for Moorepay customers

If you require any advice on any aspect of managing absence please contact our advice team on 0845 073 0240.

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About the author

Louise Gillibrand

About the author

Louise Gillibrand

Louise is a generalist Human Resource professional with over 18 years’ experience across a variety of sectors including care, medical, retail and telecommunications, and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Louise provides sound practical and business-focused advice in line with employment legislation and best practice, and has worked in partnership with line managers, senior operational managers and directors. Typical consultancy projects include advice on complex employee relations issues, redundancy programmes, restructures, TUPE, recruitment, policy writing and grievance/disciplinary handling. In addition to her generalist knowledge she is experienced in delivering training on a wide variety of employment law and HR subjects. Louise joined the Moorepay consultancy team in October 2007.

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