You may have missed the Government announcement that they are ending the “Fit for Work” assessment service on 31 March 2018 in England and Wales and 31 May 2018 in Scotland due to low referral rates.
The Fit for Work assessment service was introduced in September 2015, and gave both employers and general practitioners the power to refer employees for a free occupational health assessment. At the same time, the Government removed the reimbursement of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employers so they could fund this initiative because they argued that the money was better spent getting people back to work.
However, it has not been the success they wanted and a recent survey in GP magazine found that nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of more than 400 GPs questioned had not referred a single person to the Fit for Work scheme in the last year.
The scope of the scheme was very limited because it could not be used to help keep people at work who were struggling for health reasons. It was only possible to refer people who had been off sick for four weeks or longer.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also announced that it will also be overhauling its fit note scheme by extending certification powers to other healthcare professionals. However, it is not yet clear who these professionals will be, or indeed whether they will be public or private providers. Currently Fit Notes (medical certificates) can currently only be completed by a GP or hospital doctor.
It is understood that the Fit for Work website (https://fitforwork.org/
) will still be available, but there is no sign that the SSP reimbursement scheme will be reinstated!
If you have employees with sickness issues and need to consider assessment of the issues or to provide occupational therapy assistance to help them get back to work – or indeed to stay in work (whether that relates to physical or mental illness issues), please get in touch as I can advise on suitable alternatives.