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Fit for work scheme aims to help reduce absence levels

In December 2014, the government launched the Fit For Work Scheme to help reduce the amount of time lost through illness. The scheme provides “an occupational health assessment and health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs to help people return to or stay in work after an illness.”

Previously, where employers where faced with an employee on long-term sick leave, they would have to either try to deal with this themselves or approach a private occupational health assessor, at great expense.

Now, the government scheme provides free advice to employers through a telephone helpline and website. GP's are encouraged to refer those on long-term sick leave into the scheme – which will provide a free referral for an occupational health assessment. The new service aims to assist employers in coping with sickness absence and provide businesses, their employees and GPs with access to health advice in relation to workplace issues.

One potential flaw with the system is that employees can only be referred into the scheme if they give their express consent. Otherwise, a referral will not be possible and employers will be back to ‘square one’ having to deal with long-term sickness as they did before the introduction of the scheme.

A solution to this – for new employees in particular – is to obtain consent within the contract of employment itself when a new employee commences employment. It would also be sensible for employers to update their sickness and absence policies and procedures to make reference to the Fit For Work Scheme.

If you own or run a business and are concerned that you are not up to date with this new occupational health scheme, or are not confident that your paperwork will allow you to make use of it, please contact our team.

We have a wealth of experiencing in advising businesses on all aspects of employment law and will be only too happy to help. Call 01302 320621 or email

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