Last week, we discussed how long the Fit for Work process usually lasts. The simple answer is that it all depends on the individual case – for example, it may be that an employee is looking for some clear, factual guidance to share with their employer about their condition, and from then onwards their return to work will be very straightforward and may not require much more input from Fit for Work.
A case study of ours, Julie*, had a similar experience – she spoke to a Fit for Work case manager about the musculoskeletal issues she was having, which were preventing her from working as a care home assistant. She received lots of guidance and information from her case manager but decided not to have Fit for Work contact her employer; instead she used the guidance she received to inform her conversation about returning to work in a manageable way with her manager:
“I spoke to my line manager about the problems I’d been having and whether I could work shorter shifts. I had considered asking in the past but I didn’t feel as though I could. Knowing that a Fit for Work health professional had recommended that shorter shifts were a sensible option for me gave me the courage to ask. I knew that if my manager had a problem with it, I could tell her that I’d been given the suggestion by Fit for Work – I even had the leaflets I’d been given in my bag! Luckily my manager agreed to let me work shorter shifts, so I didn’t need to show her the leaflets, but knowing I could if I needed to was a good confidence boost.”
However, there are often cases which require more regular contact than others to help guide them through the Return to Work process from beginning to end. In either case, the case manager would proceed however the employee preferred.
Fit for Work helped Lisa* to create a Return to Work Plan, which, following her consent, was then shared with her employer. “My manager was really supportive, and agreed to complete ergonomic and risk assessments in our workplace, which was a suggestion made in my Return to Work Plan. The plan helped to guide me through the process of getting back to work, in a way that suited me. So many people off sick feel under pressure to get back to work and feel like they are at home for the wrong reasons. Fit for Work created a realistic plan that would help me return to work with adjustments at a sensible pace.”
Some people may be concerned that the Fit for Work referral process ends once the employee returns to work. However, once the employee has made a successful return to work, their case manager will always make sure to follow up with them shortly after they have gone back, which can be done by email, text or phone. The purpose of this follow-up is to check that everything is going smoothly and to answer any final questions or queries the employee may have. Once the official referral process has ceased, employees can call the Fit for Work advice line (and the online advice hub) at any point, getting professional advice and guidance to help them stay in work.
Employers can now refer their employees to the Fit for Work service. If you’re an employer thinking of making a referral, visit www.fitforwork.org/employer to find out more, or call the advice line on 0800 032 6235.
*names have been changed