Employees can be referred to the service after four weeks of sickness for an occupational health (OH) assessment. The outcome will normally be a return to work plan containing recommendations to help bring them back into the workplace.
Employers should decide on how they will engage with Fit for Work and how it will relate to their own OH scheme, if they have one. They may also need to update their absence policies and consider whether their sick pay terms should be amended to reflect the new landscape.
The government predicts the service will save employers £70m a year once fully operational - not a sum to be sniffed at, but the total cost of sickness to business is estimated to be around £9bn. Free OH advice is a step in the right direction, but the impacts and causes of employee ill health are often complex and sometimes unavoidable.
Fit for Work should help, but it's no panacea.
Michael Burd and James Davies are the joint heads of employment at Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors. Email them on firstname.lastname@example.org