The Department for Work and Pensions has issued guidance on the new Fit for Work Service.
Fit for work offers a free Occupational Health Assessment for any Employees who have been or who are expected to be off work for four weeks or more to help them to return to work sooner. It offers work related medical advice via a telephone service and website. The advice service is due to be up and running in May 2015 being rolled over a period of months.
The Employer guidance is:
- An Employee can be referred for an assessment once they have been off work for four weeks due to illness. GPs can make a referral earlier than four weeks if they judge the Employee will be absent for four weeks and an earlier referral may be beneficial. The Employee must give their consent for the referral and there must also be a reasonable likelihood of them making at least a phased return to work. The majority of referrals are expected to be made by GPs;
- Once a referral has been made, Fit for Work will contact the Employee within two days to conduct an Occupational Health Assessment at a convenient time. If a face to face meeting is deemed necessary (expected in only a minority of cases), this will take place within five days of that judgment being made. The Employee's reasonable travelling expenses will be reimbursed to the Employee on request;
- The assessment will be carried out by an Occupational Health Professional who becomes the Employee's Case Manager through to the end of the process. They will look at the health, work, personal and social issues that may be affecting the employee's ability to return to work and this will result in a Return to Work Plan;
- The Return to Work Plan will be shared with the Employee and, with their consent, with their Employer and GP. There is no obligation on either party to implement the recommendations but they are encouraged to do so. The Case Manager will contact the Employee at an arranged point to check if the Plan is on course and again shortly after the Employee has returned to work. A further assessment may be arranged if, for example, the Employee has not returned to work as anticipated;
- Employees will be discharged from Fit for Work when they have returned to work (including a phased return to work) or at the point when Fit for Work can no longer provide further assistance or if a return to work has not been possible after three months. Employees cannot be referred back to Fit for Work for 12 months;
- Fit for Work will contact Employers when it is necessary to gain a better understanding of the specific workplace than can be provided by the Employee; if recommendations in the Return to Work Plan have not been actioned; or if the relationship with the Employer has been identified as one of the obstacles to a return to work; and
- Employers will be entitled to a tax exemption where they fund the costs of medical treatment recommended by a healthcare professional as part of either Fit for Work or any Employer-arranged occupational health service. The tax exempt expenditure is limited to £500 per Employee per tax year.
For full details of all guidance documents click here