Fit for Work effectively replaces the old system where an employer could recover
statutory sick pay from HMRC. The new system is far more proactive and the belief
is that it will reduce overall sickness absence.
Fit for Work offers free, expert and impartial work-related health advice to help you
support both staff in work and those who are off sick and also to help you manage
the impact sickness absence can have on your business.
There are two elements to Fit for Work:
• Free, expert and impartial work-related health advice for you, your employees
and GPs via a website (www.fitforwork.org) and telephone line (0800 032 6235)
• Referral to an occupational health professional for employees who have been off
sick, or who are likely to be off sick, for four weeks or more.
The Fit for Work advice service went live at the end of 2014 and from early March
2015, GPs in Sheffield and North Wales began referring eligible patients to a Fit for
Work occupational health assessment. Fit for Work is being expanded across England
and Wales over a period of months with GPs being able to refer nationwide by
If you are an employer in an area where GPs can refer, you may start to receive
Return to Work Plans, which offer advice as to how you can work together with
your employees to help them back to work. The Return to Work Plans provide
recommendations and evidence of sickness, replacing the need for a fit note. You
can find out when GPs in your area will be offering the service by visiting
You’ll be able to refer from autumn 2015, once GP roll-out has been completed.
The intention is that Fit for Work complements, not replaces, existing occupational
health provision. The Government has also introduced tax exemptions of up to £500
on medical treatments recommended by Fit for Work or an employer’s occupational
Fit for Work provides people on sick leave with help to return to work by providing an occupational health assessment when they have been, or are expected to be, off work for 4 weeks. After the assessment, which GPs have been told should be the default option after four weeks’ sickness; they will receive a return-to-work plan with recommendations to help them get back to work more quickly. a return to work plan (RtW) can be accepted as evidence for payment of SSP in the same way as a fit note.
Employers, even those without HR and occupational health teams in-house can also ask for an assessment if the GP has not done so. All referrals will be based on the informed consent of the employee. The government has set out the following deadlines for the referral service which has yet to go live:
- the first assessment will be within two working days of receipt of referral
- if the employee is not expected to return to work, a review date will be set as part of the case management
- further (phone) assessment will take place within two working days
- face to face assessment (either initial or further) will take place within five working days
- the return to work plan is sent to the employee and, subject to consent, to the employer and GP within two working days (the employer may be contacted to develop the plan)
- out of hours queries to the advice service are responded to within one working day of receipt
A tax exemption of up to £500 a year per employee on medical treatments recommended by Fit for Work or an employer-arranged occupational health service was also introduced from 1st January 2015