The Fit for Work service has been up and running for several months now. Dr Lucy Goundry, medical director of Fit for Work, explains how the service works and how employers can help make sure that it meets their needs, and those of employees.
Employers across England and Wales have been able to refer employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more to the Fit for Work service since September 2015. The service is regularly receiving referrals from all types and sizes of businesses, as well as GPs, with employers using the Return to Work Plan to help their employee return to work and replacing the need for a fit note.
Contact Fit for Work
Fit for Work is continually evaluating and assessing Fit for Work and adapting the service to the needs of employers and employees. Feedback is very valuable get in touch if you have any questions or feedback at fitforwork.org/contact-us/
Fit for Work is available for advice as well as to refer employees for an assessment. This advice is free and open to everyone, employees included. The advice line is 0800 032 6235 for employers in England, or 0800 032 6233 for those in Wales.
To refer an employee or to download some of the free factsheets and leaflets available, visit www.fitforwork.org/employer. Employers in Scotland can visit http://fitforworkscotland.scot/ or phone 0800 019 2211.
In 2015, we teamed up with Acas to deliver employer-focused events where attendees could find out more about the service and put their questions to a panel of experts. We had over 900 different employers attend these events, and they were all over-subscribed. In 2016, we will be continuing our vital work raising awareness of Fit for Work and we will be regularly attending conferences across England Wales, such as the Health and Wellbeing at Work conference 2016 and the Health @ Work Summit 2016, and are continuing to work closely with partners such as Healthy Working Wales and Acas.
Our ultimate goal is for Fit for Work to become the default service for people once they hit four weeks’ sickness absence. We want all employers across England or Wales to think of us when they find themselves with a member of staff on long-term sickness absence, and to know that they can refer that employee to us.
Our case managers have OH backgrounds and will help the employee get back to work, working closely with their employer, and can signpost to other relevant services such as local support groups or a physiotherapist.
A tax exemption of up to £500 a year per employee is also available on medical treatments recommended by Fit for Work or an employer-arranged OH service to help with positive steps towards a return to work.
Fit for Work service case study
Tanya is a 48-year-old child support assistant at a Grimsby-based Learning Disability Academy, which helps to care for and educate disabled children. She was off work for a total of nine months with a chronic condition which made movement painful.
More resources on the Fit for Work service
“I work with disabled children, which means that my job can often be physically demanding, as they require a lot of hands-on care. I really wanted to get back to work, but was concerned and stressed about how my physical condition would affect my ability to do my job,” says Tanya.
Tanya’s GP suggested that he refer her to Fit for Work to see if they could help her. “I spoke to a Fit for Work case manager about possible adjustments that could help me to get back to work – we discussed these together and came up with some suggestions for me to make to my manager in my Return to Work Plan. Fit for Work helped me back to work and now I have a much more positive outlook – I don’t feel isolated and alone like I did before.”
Gemma Ryelatt, Tanya’s manager, says: ‘I knew that Tanya was really desperate to get back to work, and we were very keen to have her back too – it’s difficult for the school when we have a valued member of staff off sick. Tanya’s case manager explained all about the conversations they’d been having with her about returning to work – it was really clear and helpful.
“Fit for Work suggested we completed a risk assessment before Tanya returned to work, which we did. We wrote down all our recommendations and shared them with Tanya’s colleagues so that everyone was aware of the adjustments we needed to make to help Tanya.
“Fit for Work helped make Tanya’s return really simple – without them we would have had to go through a lengthy process, doing things like writing to her doctors. Fit for Work helped cut out that long-winded process and did all of the legwork for us, which was really helpful from a business perspective.”