The Government introduced a new Fit for Work service in a bid to assist particularly small employers manage their absence issues. The Service was established following the recommendations of Dame Carol Black, will be introduced on a phased basis by May 2015.
In addition to an online and telephone advice service, the new Fit for Work Service will provide free occupational health assessments and return to work plans to assist employees (who have been on off work on sick leave for at least four weeks or more) to return to work. Referrals can be made by GP’s or the employer. Once an employee has been referred the Service will contact them to undertake an assessment with a view to creating a return to work plan. Much criticism of the scheme has come around the fact that these assessments will usually take place over the phone. The return to work plan will cover a specified period of time and will state whether an employee is fit for work or whether they may be fit for work, subject to their employer being able to follow certain recommendations. Where appropriate it will include a timetable to achieve a return to work.
The Government has published guidance for GPs, employers and employees, on how the new Fit for Work service will work. The guidance for employers can be found here.