Fit for Work – managing sickness absence

Fit for Work, managing sickness absence

The government is to begin rolling out its national Fit for Work service this year, but what is it and how will it affect your business? The IoD’s Information and Advisory Services (IAS) offers five best pieces of advice for employers

Following an independent review in 2011 by Dame Carol Black and former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce David Frost, several pilot programmes were developed by the government to help employers handle the issue of sickness absence. Based on the findings from these projects, a nationwide government-funded service was launched last October. But how does it work and how could it benefit your business?

1.  The Fit for Work service aims to help employers with staff on long-term sick leave get their employees back into work. It was launched in parts of England and Wales in 2014, and will be rolled out nationwide by the end of May. Scotland will have a similar government-funded service, though it may work differently.

2.  When an employee has been off work for four consecutive weeks, he or she will be referred, usually by a doctor, to the Fit for Work service. (Although they may be referred earlier than four weeks.) There will also be circumstances where the employer may refer the employee if a doctor hasn’t done so.

3.  The first Fit for Work assessment, face-to-face or by phone, will be within two working days of receipt of the referral. If the employee is not expected to return to work, a review date will be set. A return-to-work plan will be sent to the employee and, with their consent, their employer and doctor.

4.  Employers could be entitled to a tax exemption of up to £500 per year, per employee, on treatments recommended by the Fit for Work service. This is to prevent employers having to pay employers’ national insurance contributions on any recommended medical treatments.

5.  The service will take a holistic view of the employee’s needs by examining non-health and non-work issues that may also be causing problems. The IAS has factsheets on managing workplace sickness and links to health and wellbeing resources. You can also get prompt legal advice from Directors’ Law Express or arrange an appointment with our employment law specialists Barry Cushway or Sara Hanna in the Directors’ Advisory Service.

How could the IAS help your business?
• IAS provides IoD members with free business intelligence and advice to help them run their companies more successfully.

• The Business Information Service is able to investigate questions on your behalf and supply you with valuable information ranging from market forecasts and industry trends to trading abroad and employee salaries

• The Directors’ Advisory Service, which provides confidential, independent advice from specialists on issues ranging from raising finance to board and shareholders’ disputes

• Members can receive prompt and confidential business and personal tax and legal advice through the IoD’s telephone helplines

To find out more about the IoD’s Information and Advisory Services visit


About author

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker is deputy editor at Think Publishing. Previously she worked as a features writer and sub-editor for Director magazine

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