The Fit for Work Service
The new Fit for Work Service
("FFW") has been much discussed at our seminars over the course of
the previous 12 months.
You will recall that the
creation of the now called Fit for Work Service was a result of a
review of sickness absence undertaken by Dame Carol Black as part
of a review commissioned by the Government.
The report made a number of
recommendations some of which were accepted and some were not, but
which included the introduction of a Government funded assessment
by Occupational Health Professionals of employees absent from work
for in excess of a four week period.
In July 2014 the Government
announced that the service would be launched in late 2014 and
delivered by Health Management Limited in England and Wales and in
a separate service administered by the Government in Scotland by
In December 2014 a Fit for
Work website and telephone lines were launched.
The purpose of the Fit for
Work service is to provide:
- free health and work advice
through its website; and
- a free referral service for
an Occupational Health assessment for employees who have reached or
whose GP expects them to reach four weeks of sickness
The Department for Work and
Pensions has now published three separate guidance notes, for GP's,
employers and employees on the new Fit for Work
The advice given is wide
ranging and can include help to employers to identify adjustments
to enable an employee to return to work.
Whilst an employee would
normally be referred to the service by their GP, employers can also
make a referral. The referral is however, dependant upon the
employee's consent and on either the GP or employer considering
that there is a reasonable likelihood of the employee making at
least a phased return to work.
Any assessment undertaken by
the FFW will be by a registered Occupational Health Care
Professional with Occupational Health qualifications, experience or
able to demonstrate experience and skills appropriate to working in
an Occupational Health context.
Once an employee is referred
it is anticipated that the service will contact the employee by
telephone within two working days. The initial assessment
will usually be undertaken by telephone however, where a face to
face assessment is required this will take place within five
working days of that decision being taken. The assessment
will take place at a location within 90 minutes travelling time by
public transport of the employee's home address and an employee can
claim reasonable travel expenses from the FFW provider. Where
an employee is unable to travel, alternative arrangements
presumably a home visit will be made.
It is integral to the
assessment that the employee will provide information in relation
to their medical condition together with their job role and any
factors which would affect their return to work. The purpose
of the assessment is to identify all possible obstacles which could
prevent the employee from returning to work to include health work,
and personal factors. It is intended that an employee and the
FFW case manager will then agree a return to work plan to enable
the employee to make a safe and sustained return to
Where the employee consents,
the case manager may contact the employee's employer to seek
assistance in the creation of the return to work plan.
Guidance also suggests that the case manager may need to contact
the individual's employer for example, there is a requirement to
have a better understanding of the workplace context and any
limitations that the employee anticipates or where the employee's
relationship with the employer is in itself identified as an
obstacle to a return to work.
With the employee's consent,
the return to work plan will be provided to both the employee's GP
The plan will state whether an
employee is fit for work or maybe fit for work subject to the
employer being able to follow certain
Where an employee meets the
criteria for Access To Work, their employer will also be able to
support a return to work by provision of specialist aids and
equipment and even support workers.
Where a return to work plan
has been adopted then the employees case manager will contact the
employee after the proposed return to work date to seek an update
in relation to the implementation of the return to work
Where in the short term an
employee is not fit to return to work, a case manager will consider
whether a further assessment will be necessary.
Where recommendations in a
plan have not been actioned, a case manager may also contact an
employer to ensure that the recommendations have been fully
understood and to offer support where necessary. A return to
work plan can also be accepted in place of a fit note as evidence
of sickness absence for statutory sick pay
The employee will be
discharged from the FFW service two weeks after they have returned
to work including, beginning with a phased return and on the date
when the FFW decides that no further assistance can be offered
which will be either when the employee has been with the service
for three months or at the point where the FFW decides that the
employee will be unable to return to work for three months of
It will be interesting to
assess how the system works in practice at our forthcoming Employment Law Update
Posted on: 27/01/2015
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
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