Government’s New “Fit for Work” (“FfW”) Scheme Rolled Out

The Government’s FfW scheme was launched in December 2014 and provides access for employees, employers and GPs to an advice line.  Employers and GPs are also able to refer employees for occupational health assessments free of charge.

The scheme provides the following:

•    Free and unlimited work related health advice via telephone or its website to
      help with absence prevention.  The advice is open to GPs, employers and
      employees who need advice relating to an employee’s health and how it is
      affecting their work.

•    Free referral for one occupational health assessment every 12 months for each
     individual employee who has reached, or whose GP expects them to reach four
     weeks of sickness absence.

The key issues for employers in terms of referrals are:

Consent:
The Government’s guidance states that consent from the employee must be explicit, informed and freely given and should be obtained at each step of the referral process and before any Work Plan (“Plan”) is shared with the employer.

Referral:
•    Can be made by GP or employer.

•    No requirement to contact GP before making referral.

•    No limit on number of employees referred.

Assessment:
•    Intended to be carried out over the phone by an occupational health adviser.

•    Purpose is to identify any obstacles preventing the employee’s return to work
      and for the employee and the occupational health adviser to agree a Plan.  

•    Subject to the employee’s consent this can be discussed with the employer but
      there is no obligation to do so.

•    Plan can then be shared with the employer and the GP in whole or in part
      depending on what the employee wants.  

Although it is not mandatory for employers to refer employees to FfW you may now consider whether you wish to amend your policies to reflect the availability of FfW for both staff and managers.  Given that referrals can be made by an employee’s GP, managers should be made aware of this service and what their obligations are (especially around the employee’s consent) in order to assist an employee who has been referred.

If you would like to discuss this or any other employment issue, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Employment team.