Fit for Work’s free online resources (blogs, guides on the Advice Hub, ability to ask a question by email/web-chat etc.) and the free telephone advice line (0800 032 6235) can be accessed by anyone who needs help with work-related health matters. In order to ensure that the free Fit for Work referrals are available for those who need them, they are subject to a set of eligibility criteria.
What is a Fit for Work referral?
A Fit for Work referral is for employees who have been off sick from work for four weeks or more. The subsequent assessment aims to identify the obstacles delaying an employee’s return to work and provide recommendations about how those can be managed in order to help the employee return to work quickly and safely. Because Fit for Work understands that there are a whole host of reasons why a person might be off work sick over and above purely health reasons, the assessment is based on a holistic ‘biopsychosocial’ approach. This explores all health, non-health, work and non-work factors influencing a person’s ability to return to work – e.g. physical or mental issues, work-related factors, personal problems, etc.
In the majority of cases, the 45-minute in-depth assessments take place by phone between the employee and a Fit for Work case manager. Where a return to work is deemed appropriate, the assessment culminates in the production of a personalised Return to Work Plan. This plan provides a step-by-step approach to returning to work and can be helpful in discussions between the employer and employee. The Return to Work Plan can also be accepted by the employer as evidence for sick pay in a lieu of a Fit Note.
Who is eligible for a Fit for Work referral?
Eligibility for a Fit for Work assessment depends on five factors.
2. Work status
Those who are in paid employment are eligible, those who are self-employed or unemployed are not.
3. Length of sickness absence
GPs can refer patients who have been off sick or who in their view are likely to be off sick from work for four weeks or more.
Employers can refer employees who have reached four weeks of sickness absence and have not yet been referred by their GP.
Those who have been off work for reasons other than illness, or who have not been absent for the stipulated period of time, are not eligible for the service. Employees cannot self-refer but can ask their GP or employer to refer them.
4. Past referral
People who have been supported through a Fit for Work assessment in the last 12 months will not be eligible for a repeat referral.
GPs and employers must gain consent from patients/employees before they make a referral. Consent will also be sought from employees before their Return to Work Plan is shared with their GP and/or employer.
Employees: If you meet the eligibility criteria, ask your employer or GP to refer you to Fit for Work. To find out more about Fit for Work referrals, see this post.
Employers: Refer eligible employees by visiting fitforwork.org/employer and clicking on ‘refer an employee’.
GPs: Refer eligible patients by visiting fitforwork.org/general-practitioner and clicking on ‘refer a patient’.