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Fit for Work Service - fit for purpose?

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We recently highlighted the key facts in relation to the Government’s new Fit for Work Service which is designed to assist employees return to work from long term sickness absence. 

Dealing with sickness absence can be difficult for any employer, particularly when the absence becomes “long term”.  One of the main issues that cause employers problems is the lack of medical advice regarding the employee’s ill health which is clearly needed when making decisions about future employment.

In many cases all that employers have to refer to is the employee’s “fit note” which is designed to confirm whether the employee is unfit for work or may be fit with some adjustments.  Unfortunately, in our experience, fit notes are rarely useful with employers citing a lack of practical advice or guidance regarding the employee’s capabilities. 

Employers are often then left with the prospect of taking decisions without clear medical advice or guidance (often leading to later criticism by the employee or ultimately an Employment Tribunal) or spending time and money seeking the advice of a private occupational health professional.

The Fit for Work Service appears to offer the possibility of detailed medical advice without costing the employer anything.  Our first experiences of the service have shown potential for a positive assistance to employers when tackling sickness absence, by providing a better understanding of the employee’s condition.  If nothing else the reports produced by the Fit for Work Service should allow an employer to make decisions with the benefit of some medical input where it previously did not exist.

Clearly time will tell as to whether or not the Fit for Work Service is actually fit for purpose.