Fit for Work

26 November 2015

What is it all about?

Fit for Work is a government funded initiative – it is a new, voluntary service that offers the wider working population access to occupational health support. It provides free health and work advice through the website and telephone line and well as free referral for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached or are expected to reach 4 weeks’ absence.

What does Fit for Work mean for employers?

Many employers, especially larger organisations, will have their own occupational health service set up and there is no obligation to switch to using Fit for Work, however only 31% of employers are thought to have this in place. The service is therefore seen as particularly important for SMEs that employ a large proportion of the workforce but have no or limited occupational health support available. Many of these employers will be pleased to know occupational health services can now be accessed for free. This will help absent employees return to work faster than they would otherwise.

How does Fit for Work benefits employers?

  • The employer can only refer workers who have been off for 4 weeks or more or are expected to be off for 4 weeks or more by their GP.
  • The service is entirely voluntary and the employer cannot refer an employee to the service unless they consent to it. Verbal consent suffices, however it is recommended that employers get a written consent to keep on their file. The outcome of the process will be a personalised return to work plan which will again only be shared with the employer / GP with the employee’s consent.
  • The service operates on the basis on telephone assessment – this will happen within 2 days from the referral and 45 minutes are allocated for each assessment with an appropriately qualified healthcare professional. Face to face assessments are likely to be rare but will be carried out if necessary within 5 days from the referral.
  • The scheme is voluntary for all parties involved so when the employer receives the return to work plan any recommendations are subject to the employer’s agreement and they don’t have to be implemented.

Employers can accept the personalised return to work plan in place of a GP’s fit-note (sick note) for SSP purposes (and do not need to request a separate fit-note from an employee’s GP).

How do I make a referral?

Tax free medical treatment

At the same time the government also introduced a tax a new tax free employment benefit – employer funded medical treatment up to a cap of £500. Under this new exemption up to £500 per annum of medical expenses can be paid tax free but only to assist an employee with their return to work after a period of illness. Initial details available say that the employee will be required  to have been unfit for work for 28 consecutive days and will require a treatment recommendation from a health professional. If the treatment is not arranged before the employee returns to work it must commence within 14 days.

What should you do now?

  • Review your organisation’s policies and procedures and ensure that Fit for Work referral is added where applicable.
  •  Inform your managers of this service so they are aware when and how they can make a referral
  • To make a referral or find out more, visit the Fit for Work  website or call 0800 032 6235.

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