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Give and Take: The Health and Work Assessment Advisory Service
Last year the Government announced that it was going to introduce a free occupational health service to address the growing problem of sickness absence in the UK. It intends the scheme to help people who are off sick for longer than 4 weeks get back to work by making occupational health advice, “more readily available to employers and employees.”

The idea is that it will assess employees’ physical and/or mental functions and their ability to work (rather than simply do their job) with a view to getting them back into the workplace quickly and efficiently. It is expected to include:

• An assessment – once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, 4 weeks of sickness absence they will normally be referred by their GP for an assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at all the issues preventing the employee from returning to work
• Advice – employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice through a phone line and website

Following an assessment, it is intended that employees will receive a return to work plan with recommendations to help them to return to work more quickly and information on how to get appropriate help and advice.

The Government has said that it will also introduce a tax exemption of up to £500 a year for each employee on medical treatments recommended by the Health and Work Service or an employer-arranged occupational health service.

There has been no specific announcement with regards to when this new scheme will be implemented, but it seems likely to be introduced sometime late 2014 or early 2015.

However, as part of the changes, the Percentage Threshold scheme that allowed small employers to recover their statutory sick pay (SSP) costs from HMRC if these costs were more than 13% of their monthly Class 1 National Insurance Contribution, is being abolished with effect from April 2014. This means that those employers that relied upon the SSP being reimbursed, will have to cover those costs themselves, but will have to wait several months before the new state-funded occupational health service becomes available. This will increase the pressure felt by small employers to get staff back to work even quicker than might be the case at present.

If as an employer you find yourself in that situation and need some occupational health assistance, please contact Cherington HR for details of a recommended occupational health service provider who will be able to help.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016


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