This is according to research by Jelf Employee Benefits.
Fit for Work is a government-funded initiative designed to support people both in work with health conditions and those absent because of illness. It was rolled out in April 2015. Referrals to the service can be made by GPs or employers. First the employee is given a telephone assessment, then a case manager prepares a ‘Return to Work Plan’, which suggests what the employer can do to assist the individual in returning to work.
However, only 17% of organisations reported receiving any formal notification of the service. Additionally, only 3% of those surveyed said they had referred someone to it.
Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy for Jelf Employee Benefits, said communication is the key to making Fit for Work successful. “The Fit for Work service is an important first step for thousands of employers to help reduce sickness absence, yet the service will only make a tangible difference if organisations are made aware of the service and how to access it,” he added. “Our findings suggest that most employers are currently largely unaware of the launch of this initiative.”
This research follows concerns regarding the quality of the service. In April 2015 former group HR director at healthcare provider Benenden, Inji Duducu shared her concerns with HR magazine. “While it is great that the government recognises the benefits to employees and companies of a productive and healthy workforce, in my experience it is incredibly difficult to get pragmatic, commercially-minded occupational health advice,” she said. “My fear is that there will be long waiting times for appointments and the advice given will be generic and risk averse.”
Herbert added though that the government seems to be moving in the right direction. “It is encouraging that some referrals have been made; and the aim must now be to engage more employers and GPs in this process,” he said. “We are aware that Fit for Work has been rolling out a national roadshow to employers and is shortly undertaking an advertising campaign. This can only help improve awareness and referrals, but we would still like to see more promotion from central government to push this agenda.”