New Fit for Work scheme rolled out in May

25 March, 2015 / infocus
 

Practices must update their sickness absence policies to reflect the new Fit for Work scheme currently being rolled out across the country, the MDDUS has warned.

The government is in the process of a phased launch of the new system, with both the Scottish and English schemes expected to be fully operational by May.

Sickness absence costs employers billions of pounds each year and, as well as reducing costs, the purpose of the new scheme is to provide an occupational health assessment and general health and work advice to employees, employers and GDPs with the aim of helping individuals stay in or return to work.

MDDUS employment law adviser Liz Symon says: “We regularly deal with calls from practices on how to deal with long-term absence and it is hoped this new scheme will provide more transparency and help both employers and employees.

“It’s in the best interests of the practice to ensure they create a productive workplace. It’s not simply a case of preventing absence, but supporting employees if they need time off.”

There are two elements to the new service – assessment and advice.

Once the employee has reached four weeks of sickness absence, they will be referred by their GP for an assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at all the issues preventing the employee from returning to work.

It is important to note that participation in the scheme is not compulsory and the employee must give their consent.

Following assessment, Fit for Work will provide employees with a return-to-work plan. “This plan should include recommendations to help them return to work as well as information on how to get appropriate help and advice,” says Symon.

Employers, employees and GDPs will be able to access advice by phone or via the website.

Details of the scheme can be found at www.fitforworkscotland.scot/

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