Fit for Work is now available for everyone in employment up and down the country, and as employers and GPs begin to refer their employees and patients, questions are being raised from those interested in the service about how long the referral process will last. Is it a brief intervention for those off sick for four weeks or more, or is it a more lengthy and complex process?
The answer, put simply, is that it depends on each individual case – the process would be tailored around an individual’s needs. Some people may require a more involved, hands-on approach, while some may just require a brief intervention.
However, the Fit for Work referral process does last a total of three months as standard, or until the person referred has made a full return to work – although we do anticipate that most employees will have returned to work within those three months.
During the referral process, we always follow-up with people within the time frame they are off work – unless they request otherwise. The referral starts with an initial 45-minute (approximately) telephone consultation, which would be in-depth and cover all the obstacles preventing someone returning to work; from their health issues, to social and financial issues, or anything else they wish to discuss.
However, this telephone assessment is of course not the sum total of the return to work process – we wouldn’t just speak to an employee once and then leave it at that; we provide any necessary support that may help the employee which may often include contact with the employer (where the employee consents to this).
Once the referral process is over and contact with the case manager has ceased, that’s where the Fit for Work advice line can also help. The advice line is open to anyone to phone on 0800 032 6235 (or 0800 032 6233 for Welsh speakers), and those who have returned to work but have follow-up queries or issues can speak to a health professional to address any concerns they may have. While the official return to work process may have ceased, the advice line (and the online advice hub) continue to provide support and guidance for anyone who requires it, meaning that Fit for Work can continue to be a vital line of support at every stage of someone’s return to work.
Look out for part two of our blog on the referral process next week, which will feature real life examples of the different ways that Fit for Work can support people back to work.