Government Publishes Guidance on the 'Fit for Work' Service

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published guidance for employers and employees on the new 'Fit for Work' service, originally referred to as the Health and Work Service, which is due to be phased in over the coming months.

The service, which will be free, is intended to complement, not replace, existing occupational health services provided by employers and it is envisaged that it will be of particular benefit to those employers with limited in-house occupational health facilities.

Under the free scheme, employees on sick leave will be provided with 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 and a case manager will then support them 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 service provider's telephone and website.

It is not mandatory for employers to refer employees to Fit for Work, nor to implement the recommendations highlighted in the return to work plan. However, the DWP recommends that employers update their sickness absence policies to reflect the availability of Fit for Work.

Also, from 1 January 2015 the Government is introducing a tax exemption of up to £500 per year, per employee on medical treatments recommended to help an employee return to work. This will apply to treatments recommended by health professionals within Fit for Work and health professionals within employer-arranged occupational health services.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.