Fit for work scheme to be rolled out over next few months
The Fit for Work scheme, which is intended to help employers manage staff sickness, is now being piloted and is expected to be rolled out across England and Wales over the next few months.
Government figures suggest more than 140 million working days are lost because of staff sickness each year. This causes stress for the employee and can also cause major problems for employers, especially small businesses, which may have fewer resources and less flexibility than larger companies.
It’s estimated that sickness absence costs employers £9billion a year in sick pay costs and lost production.
One of the key elements of the scheme is that it allows employers and GPs to offer free occupational health referrals to employees who have been off work for four weeks or more. The service is voluntary and employees have to give their consent before referrals for a health assessment can be made.
Following the assessment, employees will receive a return-to-work plan with recommendations to help them get back to their job more quickly.
There is also an advice line offering help to both employers and employees to enable an early and smooth return to work.
The Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud, said: “Being in work is good for people’s wellbeing and can help them to recover. Fit for Work will help employers and their staff to manage sickness absence and aid the return-to-work process.”
The Fit for Work scheme is currently being trialled in Sheffield and will be rolled out to other regions over the coming months.
Employers can get more information on the Fit for Work website http://fitforwork.org/
The Fit for Work scheme followed research by Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE. In their report, Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence, they wrote: “We know that the longer someone is off sick or out of work, the harder it is to get back to work, and worklessness comes at great personal and financial cost. Much absence and inactivity is due to comparatively mild illness which is compatible with work – and may indeed be improved by work.”
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