· 1 min read · Features

How Fit for Work works

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Fit for Work was introduced in spring 2015. This is how it works

The introduction in spring 2015 of Fit for Work (FfW) plugged a gap that previously existed in occupational health advice and support by offering access to health professionals for people who have been off work for four weeks or more because of illness or related issues.

The service was brought in by the government in light of evidence that intervention at around four weeks increases the likelihood of employees returning to work quickly, rather than remaining absent long term or leaving the workforce altogether.

There are two key elements to this voluntary service. First: advice available via a website and freephone helpline for employees, employers and GPs. Second: a 45-minute telephone assessment with an appropriately qualified healthcare professional. Staff can be referred for assessment by their employers (as long as the worker has given informed consent). However, if an employee is referred by his or her GP this can occur earlier than four weeks – so long as medical opinion is that the individual will be absent for at least this length of time.

Once an employee has been assessed under FfW and the healthcare professional deems it feasible, a Return to Work Plan can be agreed with that person, which sets out a stepped return to the workplace. This can be accepted as evidence of sickness absence in place of a Fit Note. As well as free advice and the potential of speeding up an employee’s resumption of duties – thereby cutting down absence costs – employers also stand to gain the further advantage of a tax exemption of up to £500 per year, per employee on medical interventions that have been recommended.

Further reading

Fit for Work: Is it fit for purpose?