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What is the new Fit for Work service?

The Government’s Fit for Work service was introduced on 15 December 2014. The service is currently being rolled out across the country and it is expected that employers will be able to refer employees in Autumn 2015 once the roll out for GPs has been completed

The aim is to offer help to employers who are dealing with employees with long term sickness. So how will it help your business?

Female doctor with her patientMain elements of Fit for Work

The service is free for employers and employees to use and consists of the following elements:

  • An employee who is off sick for four weeks will be referred to the service by their GP
  • An employer can refer an employee if the GP has not done so after 4 weeks absence
  • The employee must consent at every stage of the process. Without the employee’s consent a referral to the Fit for Work service cannot be made.
  • Employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice via a phone line and website.
  • The service will encompass telephone assessments by a Case Manager (with face to face assessments expected only in a minority of cases).
  • There can only be one referral per employee in any 12 month period.
  • The Case Manager make a ‘bio psychosocial holistic assessment’ which addresses personal and social issues outside the workplace.
  • The Case Manager writes a Return to Work Plan which advises upon what the employer can do to assist a return to work. This plan can replace a GP’s fit note for the purpose of statutory sick pay.
  • Employees may still need a fit note to cover the period between the referral to the service and the production of the Return to Work Plan.
  • Employers do not have to act on the recommendations to assist the employee back to work but are encouraged to do so.
  • There may be more than one assessment if appropriate.

Previously if a fit note declared an employee to be completely incapable of work, the employer had no options to help the employee back into work. The service is effectively a broker between the employer and employee. It is intended to complement, rather than replace, existing occupational health provision and to fill the gap in support where that previously existed.

We are yet to see how this will assist with the management of sickness absence however for further advice on addressing long term absence in your organisation please contact the ProAktive HR Team on 01302 341344.

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