Fit for Work is a government-funded referral service that provides free access to an occupational health professional for employees who have been, or are likely to be, off sick from work for four weeks or more.
How it works
To be eligible, the employee for referral must:
- Still be employed
- Have been absent from work for four weeks or more due to illness
- Have a reasonable likelihood of making a phased return to work within three months
- Have not been referred to the service in the last previously 12 months
- Have provided their consent to be referred.
Once referred, an occupational health professional will contact the employee and carry out an assessment, usually by telephone. The assessment aims to identify any obstacles which might be preventing the employee from returning to work and, where appropriate, to formulate a "Return to Work Plan".
Return to Work Plan
The Return to Work Plan is intended to assist both the employee and employer to find ways of helping the employee to get back to work as efficiently and safely as possible. The Plan will recommend an appropriate framework and timetable for introducing the employee back into the working environment and will often suggest modified duties or working hours until the employee is completely recovered. Worth noting is also the fact that the Return to Work Plan can be used in place of a fit note.
Who can refer
Employers can refer eligible employees to Fit for Work, as can GPs. Employees however cannot self-refer.
Tips for employers
Using Fit for Work could help employers to reduce their sick pay costs by getting their employees back to work sooner. If an employer is interested they should update their sickness absence policies to reflect that the service is available, and advertise it to employees.
Upon deciding that an eligible employee should be referred, and having obtained that employee's consent, the employer can start the process by filling out the referral form on the Fit for Work website.