The Fit For Work (FFW) service has just been launched. Aimed at helping employees back to work, this Government backed scheme aims to use occupational health professionals as part of the process of assessing employees who have been off work for more than four weeks. The basic process involves a referral of the employee to the service, who make an assessment and produce a return-to-work plan, which may be shared with the employer (but see below).
Fit For Work service – key facts
Criteria for referrals
Referrals to the FFW service can only be made for employees (as opposed to self-employed individuals or workers) who have:
- been absent from work for at least four weeks
- reasonable likelihood of returning to work within three months
- not undergone a FFW assessment in the last 12 months, or a FFW return-to-work plan as a result of a previous referral.
The referral results in a return-to-work plan
- Once an employee has been referred, they are assigned a case manager whose assessment results in a return-to-work plan.
- This plan can be shared with the employer providing the employee consents
- The case manager keeps in touch with the employee to ensure the plan is being actioned, and look at alternatives if it is not.
Employees must give consent to be referred
This consent can be given to either the employer or their GP.
The FFW service must also gain the employees consent before:
- the initial assessment
- it shares the plan and any update with either GP or employer
- it contacts the GP, employer or any other third party as part of the assessment.
The return-to-work plan has the same status as a fit note
- Employees should therefore accept the return-to-work plan as evidence of sickness absence.
- Recommendations in the plan are not legally binding.
- If the employees condition amounts to a disability, the return to work plan recommends actions which the employer refuses to accommodate it could lead to a tribunal claim that the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments.
Full details can be found on the Fit For Work service web site at http://fitforwork.org/
It isn’t always clear if this is going to work but it is a step in the right direction and does point a way forward in dealing with long term sickness absenteeism.
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