All employers will, from this week, be able to refer employees facing long-term sickness into a new support service, known as Fit for Work. The service is designed to help working people who face lengthy sickness absence return to work, providing the services of occupational health professionals to employed people if they have been, or are likely to be, off work for four weeks or more. Together with helping employers reduce the impact of long-term sickness absence on their businesses, the new service also aims to help cut sick pay costs to business.
According to the services’ website at www.fitforwork.org, whilst it is particularly aimed at small and medium-sized businesses with no or limited occupational health support, it is also available to larger employers, where it can help complement existing occupational health provision.
Employers will therefore be joining GPs are already referring their patients into the free and confidential service - albeit that individuals concerned must give their consent to participate.
The service confirms that 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 Return to Work Plan. The Return to Work Plan will direct employees towards services that will help them overcome any obstacles keeping them away from work. If the employee gives consent, Fit for Work professionals can also work directly with employers to help achieve a return to work. The Return to Work plan will also provide evidence of sickness for pay purposes, replacing the need for a fit note.
The Fit for Work referral service is complemented by a telephone advice line and website, both of which can be used now by anyone requiring work-related health advice, including employees, employers and GPs: 0800 032 6235 www.fitforwork.org.