As of September 2015 employers (as opposed to only GP’s) will be able to refer employees to the governments new fit for work service (FFW) where the employee has been absent from work for a period of least four weeks. This is a government funded occupational health service, the aim of which is to offer support and assistance to those employees who have been absent from and to assist their return to the workplace.
How does it work – Where an employee is referred to the service, an adviser from the Fit for Work service will carry out an occupational health assessment, usually over the phone. The employee will be provided with a return-to-work plan, with recommendations for steps that could help him or her to return to work.
The Salient points to note about this scheme are that :
- Only certain individuals will be eligible for the scheme.
- Employees must provide their consent at each stage of the process, ie before a referral can be made to the first assessment and consent is also required to share the findings with their Employer.
- The employee will have a case manager at the Fit for Work service, who can arrange a further assessment if necessary.
The employee will be discharged from the service:
- on returning to work;
- at the point when the service can no longer provide assistance (if this occurs within the first three months of absence); or
- if he or she has not returned to work after three months.