The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published guidance for employers and employees on the new ‘Fit for Work’ service, previously called the Health and Work Service, which is being rolled out over the coming months.
Under the new scheme, employees on sick leave will be offered an occupational health assessment when they reach, or are expected to reach, more than four weeks’ absence. Normally, employees will be referred by their GP but an employer can also make the referral after four weeks’ absence from work. A case manager will then support the employee through the assessment process and liaise with their employer to ensure that their level of need and the appropriate steps necessary to enable them to return to work are correctly identified. Based on this information, a ‘return to work’ plan will be produced.
In addition, more general health and work advice will be available to GPs, employers and employees via the Fit for Work telephone service and website.
It is envisaged that the new system will operate alongside existing occupational health facilities offered by employers, filling the gap in support that currently exists amongst small and medium enterprises.
From 1 January 2015, there is also a tax exemption of up to £500 per annum per employee on payments for medical treatments recommended by health professionals within Fit for Work and health professionals within employer-arranged occupational health services.
Although Fit for Work is voluntary, the DWP advises employers to update their sickness absence policies to reflect the availability of the scheme.
The guidance, which can be found here, will be updated regularly as the system is phased in.