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Fit For Work Scheme - Could this resolve all your sickness problems?

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Fit for Work Scheme (FFW) 

The Government has launched an occupational heath service whose sole purpose is to reduce the number of employees on long-term sickness absence. It was intended for this to be rolled out in May 2015…although this is clearly delayed.

The fit for work scheme is designed to make occupational health assessments and advice more readily available for employees and employers and the way to address this is in 2 stages:-

1)    A website and telephone service which provides guidance on any health issues; and
2)    A referral service which offers the occupational health assessments designed to get employees back into work.

Of course, as with anything, there is a referral process to go through which suggests that a telephone assessment with a case worker will take place within just 2 days of the referral and in the event a face to face assessment is required, within 5 days of the referral and 90 minutes of the employees home – a long time for someone to travel if they aren’t very well!

What do businesses need to do? Businesses need to take action now and we’ve highlighted some points below which should give you some action points:-

Positives

•    Update line managers and HR colleagues by providing training for them so that they are aware of the changes that are coming in. If a FFW plan is put forward for one of there employees following a GP referral, ensure they are aware of the implications.
•    In the event an employee has been off sick for more than 4 weeks, consider whether a direct referral for FFW may be the best approach.
•    Think about how FFW ties in with your own sickness absence management policies and whether you will need to review your policies to reflect the changes to the fit note.

Negatives

The downside to FFW and what some will consider are concerns to this service are as follows:-

•    Telephone assessment – most plans are to be drawn up on this type of assessment. The case worker will have no understanding of the employers and role of the employee so how can a plan be drawn which works for both the employer and employee?
•    Reasonable adjustments – although it is not mandatory for employers to use this service, or observe the recommendations, which may be inappropriate or unreasonable, what will happen in the event the employer refuses to make those adjustments from a disability discrimination perspective?
•    Conflicting advice – what happens if there is different advice being given by the case worker and the employers own occupational health provider?
•    How does this work with more complex cases of sickness absence?

How successful the FFW Scheme will be?…only time will tell.

For more information why not check out our webinar "Managing Long Term Sickness Absence & Disability" tomorrow, 18th June - Book on now! 

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