The government is introducing a new service for employers, Fit for Work, to provide occupational health advice about their employees when they are off work due to sickness for 4 weeks. The advice service is now live - and it's free.
The intended benefits of Fit For Work are:
· Helping to reduce sick pay costs by enabling employees to return to work earlier
· Helping employers to manage sickness absence
· Supporting employees who are off sick, in a way that is right for them
· Promoting recovery and helping to prevent harmful physical, mental and social effects of long-term sickness absence
The advice line gives free, expert and impartial work-related health advice to help employers and is delivered by Fit For Work’s team of occupational health professionals. You can chat online to a specialist advisor or email a question via their website www.fitforwork.org, where there is a library of advice containing articles on a range of health and work topics. You can also call 0800 032 6235 (English) or 0800 032 6233 (Cymraeg). This advice service is now live.
There will also be a free referral service to an occupational health professional for employees who have been off sick (or who are likely to be off sick) for 4 weeks or more. An assessment will be made and a Return to Work Plan drawn up to provide advice and recommendations for the employee.
There will be a phased roll-out of the referral service and this has now started. All employers nationally will be able to refer eligible employees for an occupational health assessment from autumn 2015, once the roll-out to GP practices has ended. A gradual roll-out enables the organisers to build experience, learning and implementation improvements into their roll-out plans. Details of where the service is live and where it will soon be rolled out are available on www.fitforwork.org.
The referral process is still being developed as the service rolls out and normally it will be made by the employee’s GP (with the employee’s consent) after four weeks’ absence, although there will be default process where the employer can make the referral direct.
The Human Resource will provide more details as the referral process becomes firmed up. We advise small & medium businesses on effective handling of cases of long term sickness absence and on ways of reducing absence rates to bring down your costs.