In an earlier blog, Hayley mentioned that the Government was setting up a new Fit for Work Service aimed at reducing long-term sickness absence. Guidance has now been published and can be accessed here. Aimed predominantly at small to medium sized businesses, the Guidance explains how the service will work, the role of the employer, the advantages for employees and employers and the data protection issues. There is separate guidance for GPs and employees.
The Service will be free and aims to help employees stay in or return to work. Its purpose is to provide an occupational health assessment and general health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs. The over-all aim is to promote the recovery and rehabilitation of sick employees and prevent the harmful physical, mental and social effects of long-term absence.
The Service will run alongside existing occupational health services provided by employers. It aims to fill the gap in support that currently exists and will be particularly helpful to small businesses without access to in-house occupational health professionals.
The Service will be UK-wide though in Scotland it will be provided by the Scottish Government on behalf of DWP (and will be known as Fit for Work Scotland) and in England and Wales by Health Management Limited.
While the phone and website advice service is already “live”, there will be a phased roll out of the referral service taking place over a period of months.
While it’s not mandatory for employers to refer employees to the service, it’s recommended that you now update your sickness absence policy to reflect its availability. You may also wish to familiarise yourself with the Guidance in order to make best use of the service for the benefit of your business. If you have any questions about the new Service or require help with your absence policy, please get in touch.