Fit for Work

Author: Nicola O'Dwyer

In December 2014, the Government launched the Fit for Work scheme (“FFW”). The scheme includes a website and telephone advice line. The opportunity for an occupational health referral will be in place by May 2015.

The website and telephone advice line assists employees and employers with preventing absence. FFW can be contacted as many times as required and hopefully advice can be provided to help identify adjustments that can help an employee return to and remain in work. The benefit to employers is that the service is free.

Employees can be referred to FFW by either their GP or their employer if they believe that the employee will be absent for four or more weeks. There is no limit on the number of employees that can be referred but an employee can only be referred for one assessment in any 12 month period.

FFW is staffed by registered Occupational Health professionals. Upon a referral, FFW anticipates contacting employees within two days to undertake an assessment by telephone. If a face to face assessment is required, it will be arranged within five days of the decision being made. The employee can claim reasonable travel expenses to attend the appointment with the Occupational Health professional from FFW.

The assessment undertaken by FFW is a “biophysical holistic assessment” which requires the employee to describe their condition, their job role and any personal factors controlling their return to work. The allocated Case Manager at FFW will agree a Return to Work Plan with the employee. It may be necessary for the Case Manager to speak with the employer to discuss the Return to Work Plan prior to completing the plan.

The plan, once completed, will be provided to the employer. The plan should provide recommendations for a return to work. It is not mandatory for employers to act on the recommendations but it is encouraged, and the Case Manager will contact both the employer and employee to find out if the plan is being followed.

Potentially, an employer can receive a tax exemption of up to £500 to assist with paying for medical treatment. In addition, if the employee meets certain criteria, the employer can apply for support, such as specialist aids, equipment or support workers.

A benefit of the plan for an employee is that it is sufficient evidence for statutory sick pay to continue to be paid without the need to keep obtaining medical certificates from their GP.

Employees will be discharged from FFW two weeks after they have returned to work or on the date when FFW decide that there is no further assistance that can be offered to the employee. This will be when the employee has been with the service for three months or when FFW considers that the employee will be unable to return to work for three months or more.