The government has confirmed that, as a result of “low referral rates”, its national Fit for Work referral and assessment service will come to an end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and on 31 May 2018 in Scotland.
The Fit for Work service is a free government service that was launched in 2015 to help employers manage sickness absence in the workplace. There are two elements to it: (1) an advice service providing general health and work advice, as well as support on sickness absence, through a website, web chat service and telephone helpline, and (2) a referral and assessment service providing an independent occupational health assessment and a return to work plan for employees who have been off sick from work, or who are likely to be off sick from work, for four weeks or more. It’s this latter element that is to be abolished. Employers will continue to be able to use the website, web chat service and telephone helpline.
As part of a long-term strategy to get more disabled people into work, the government is also considering reform to the statutory sick pay (SSP) system to support more flexible working, for example, to help support phased returns to work, and it will bring forward a consultation on its proposed changes in due course. In addition, it is planning to extend the certification powers for statements of fitness for work (or fit notes) to other healthcare professionals and to develop a set of competencies for those completing fit notes.