Employers across England and Wales are now able to refer employees on long-term sick leave to a new support service called Fit for Work.
According to figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), around 870,000 employees are absent from work for longer than four weeks due to sickness.
Fit for Work gives your workers access to professional occupational health services. From today employers are able to refer their employees to the Fit for Work scheme if they have been (or if it looks likely that they will be) absent from their job through sickness for four weeks or more.
The service is already available to employers in Scotland.
Research by Fit for Work estimates that 70% of SMEs do not have access to occupational health support. Fit for Work aims to reduce the impact that long-term sickness absence can have on a business, including cutting the cost of sick pay.
Each employee that you enrol onto the scheme will receive an in-depth assessment of their condition. Fit for Work will follow this assessment with a personalised Return to Work plan, which sets out a staged recovery and rehabilitation process for your employee. The scheme also offers managed support to the employee to help them back into their role.
The Fit for Work service will help your employees return to work sooner, reducing the cost of sickness absence and helping to maintain your workforce. It gives you access to free work-related health advice, and also means that you could be eligible for tax exemptions of up to £500 (per year, per employee) on recommended medical interventions.
Who is eligible?
The Fit for Work service is only open to employees who have been off of work for four weeks due to sickness for whom returning to work is a realistic option.
Does the employee have to give consent?
Whilst you can refer your employees, they must first give their verbal consent in order to participate in the Fit for Work scheme and then consent again for you to see their Return to Work plan.
What does it mean for the Fit Note?
You can accept a Return to Work plan as evidence of sickness absence in lieu of a Fit Note. However employees that are absent through sickness and that are not enrolled on the Fit for Work scheme will still require a Fit Note from their GP.
Is Fit for Work confidential?
The Fit for Work service is confidential. The only people who will have access to your employee’s information will be the case managers who are working with your employee.
The new Fit for Work scheme underlines the government’s ethos of getting people off of benefits and into work. The service should be very welcome for employers, who will undoubtedly appreciate the helping hand in keeping their workforce at full strength.
Visit www.fitforwork.org to find out more.