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Fit for Work scheme up and running to tackle sickness absence

Published 02 September 2015

A government-backed initiative to get employees back to work after illness or injury should be fully operational before the end of the year.

The new Fit for Work service provides occupational health assessments on referral from an employee's GP or employer, where a worker is absent from work for at least four weeks. The assessments should not affect an employee’s right to sick pay.

The aim of the scheme is to cut long-term sick leave which cost UK businesses billions of pounds each year, and to help employees return to work as soon as it is appropriate following an absence caused by illness or injury.

The service should benefit small to medium sized business, which have limited access to occupational health services.

An employee must consent before a referral can be made to Fit for Work, and they can withdraw consent at any stage during the process.

Upon referral an employee will get a case manager who will carry out an assessment, look at the issues preventing a return to work and draw up a return-to-work plan. This can include a referral to a hospital specialist or some form of support or action from the employer.

The service can also provide more generalised open-access occupational health advice to employees, employers and general practitioners, regardless of the duration of any sickness.

The initiative has already been rolled out across Wales and in large parts of England, and is expected to become fully operational during autumn.

The key eligibility requirements for referral to the Fit for Work service are that the individual must:

  • be an employee (not a self-employed contractor);
  • have been absent from work for at least four weeks;
  • have a reasonable likelihood of being able to return to work within three months; and
  • have not undergone a Fit for Work assessment in the previous 12 months and have not received a Fit for Work return-to-work plan as a result of the previous referral.
  • Employees who live outside England, Wales and Scotland are not eligible to be referred to the Fit for Work service.

To reflect the availability of the Fit for Work service employers should update their sickness policy.


Fit for Work guidance for employers

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