Fit for Work is now available for employers up and down the country, meaning that they can refer staff who have been off work sick for four weeks or more to the service. The service is aimed at supporting workers in SMEs to plug the gap in occupational health advice and support provision – as around 70% of employees in England and Wales don’t have access to occupational health and advice.
Fit for Work is predicted to cut sick pay costs to business by £80 million, to £165 million a year. This means that it is something businesses can’t afford to miss out on taking advantage of. Those wanting to use the service often find it good practice to include Fit for Work in their in-house HR policy, and build it into their procedures for dealing with sickness absence.
Here are the top five things to consider if you want to include Fit for Work in your HR policy:
- Clarify what existing support you already have in place for employees on long-term sick leave, and work out how Fit for Work will fit in with these.
- Hold a focus group with staff representatives and HR to introduce them to Fit for Work and discuss their thoughts on how including it in absence policy would work best.
- Consider including a referral to Fit for Work as part of your existing absence policy, so that a referral once an employee reaches the four week absence mark becomes standard procedure. Read the CIPD guidelines on updating your HR policies. These guidelines include suggestions like piloting draft policies before implementing them, and it is important that these are followed.
- Let your staff know about the changes. You can then direct them to the Fit for Work website so that they can find out more information for themselves. The Fit for Work website also includes an advice hub with lots of information about different health conditions, so any employees worried about sickness absence can access useful information and support.
- Be prepared to receive an employee’s Return to Work Plan. The Return to Work Plan will include steps and/or actions that can be taken by the employer to help support a return to work as quickly as possible. Legislation allows employers to accept a Return to Work Plan in place of a fit note.
Employers wanting further advice about referring employees on long-term sickness absence can call the Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor.