In April 2014 when the reclaiming of Statutory Sick Pay was abolished a new scheme to help sick employees back to work was promised. Aimed predominantly at SME’s, the new Fit for Work service is a free Government initiative launched to help employers, employees and GP’s manage long-term sickness absence in the workplace. Guidance for the new service has now been published and hopes to benefit the workplace on a number of levels from enabling employees back to work as soon as they are able to reducing sick pay costs incurred by employers.
Both employers and employees currently have access to a telephone and web advisory service. For the employee this provides work-related health advice and offers solutions helping them to return to work. For the employer, it details work related factors affecting their employees and suggests recommendations to facilitate an employees’ return. Employers can also claim a tax exemption of up to £500 per employee per tax year by funding the cost of an employee’s medical treatment through Fit for Work or another occupational health scheme.
From Autumn 2015 employers will be able to refer an employee (with their consent) to their GP for an occupational health assessment following a period of sickness absence of four weeks or more. Carried out by a healthcare professional, the assessment will explore the reasons surrounding the employees absence and produce a tailored “Return to Work” plan detailing timescales and recommendations to enable the employee to return to work as quickly as they can.
The service is not mandatory nor are employers legally bound to implement recommendations however, if an employee subsequently brings an Employment Tribunal claim , the Tribunal will expect the employer to provide reasonable justification as to why the recommendations were not implemented. Good business practice would also suggest that employee handbooks and sickness policies are updated to reflect the availability of the service.
Backhouse Solicitors are specialists in all areas of Employment Law and can help you draft your sickness policy or amend it to include the availability of the Fit to Work service. For more information call us today and book a free, 30 minute consultation with one of our expert solicitors.