How Fit for Work supports small and medium businesses
This is a guest post by Fit For Work – a government funded line of support for GPs, employers and employees to help those who are in work or off sick.
Fit for Work is a free, government-led initiative that helps businesses grow through improving their productivity and profitability via effective management of staff sickness absence.
A 2011 report by Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE indicated that there was a gap in occupational health provision for small and medium businesses. Fit for Work aims to plug that gap by providing support for employees with health issues to stay in work, and help those on long-term sick leave return to work sooner.
What does the Fit for Work service consist of?
There are two elements to Fit for Work:
- Free, expert and impartial work-related health advice via the Fit for Work Advice Hub and telephone line (0800 032 6235 for advice in English, 0800 032 6233 for Welsh). A separate service is available to those in Scotland via fitforworkscotland.scot and 0800 019 2211.
- Free referral to an occupational health professional for employees who have been, or who are likely to be, off sick for four weeks or more.
What is a Fit for Work assessment?
A Fit for Work assessment aims to identify the obstacles delaying an employee’s return to work and provide recommendations about how those can be managed in order to help the employee return to work quickly and safely with the right support.
In the majority of cases, the 45-minute in-depth assessments take place by phone between the employee and a Fit for Work case manager. The assessment is based on a holistic ‘biopsychosocial’ approach. This explores all health, non-health, work and non-work factors influencing a person’s ability to return to work – e.g. physical or mental health issues, work-related factors, personal problems, etc.
The assessment culminates in the production of a personalised Return to Work Plan. This plan provides a step-by-step approach to returning to work and can be helpful in discussions between the employer and employee. The Return to Work Plan summary can also be accepted by the employer as evidence for sick pay in a lieu of a Fit Note.
Who is eligible for a Fit for Work referral?
In order to refer your employee to Fit for Work, the employee must:
- be living in England or Wales (a separate service is available for those living in Scotland);
- have been off work with sickness for four weeks or more (GPs can refer at any stage if they think the employee is likely to be off work for a minimum of four weeks);
- have a realistic prospect of returning to some form of work within 3 months;
- have not been supported through a Fit for Work assessment in the previous 12 months;
- give their consent.
How does Fit for Work help businesses?
Fit for Work can be particularly helpful for small businesses that do not have their own occupational health provision. The benefits to employers include:
- Employees return to work sooner so the costs of sickness absence are reduced.
- Employers get access to free work-related health advice, and free occupational health assessments for employees on long-term sickness absence.
To find out how Fit for Work has supported businesses and their employees, see our case studies. For more information on the service and how it could help you and your business, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 0330 221 0280 or visit the Fit for Work website.