How employers can make the most of Fit for Work

May 17, 2017 12:24pm All News Stories  Employment Law News  sick leave

Do you know how the Fit for Work scheme actually works and is your business missing out by not taking advantage of it?

In order to help employers to get employees back to work as soon as possible following a period of sickness absence, the Government introduced the Fit for Work scheme in September 2015.


Fit for Work is a government funded initiative, open to employers and GPs. It offers free web and telephone health and work advice and also a free referral for an occupational health assessment for eligible employees. If employees are referred for an assessment, they may receive a Return to Work Plan.

It is not obligatory for employers to refer their employees to the initiative and they are under no legal obligation to put any of the recommendations made in the Return to Work Plan into practice. However, you should take care if the employee is disabled and the recommendations are considered to be reasonable adjustments as a failure to implement them could be discriminatory.

Who is eligible?

The eligibility requirements are:

  • employees who have been absent from work for 4 weeks or more
  • there is a reasonable likelihood of them being able to make at least a phased return to work
  • a referral has not been made to the scheme for them in the last 12 months
  • the employee has given their consent.

If these requirements are fulfilled, then the employer or the employee’s GP can make a referral to the scheme.

How does it work?

Fit for Work will contact the employee to arrange an occupational health assessment. Normally, these will take place over the phone, but they can also take place face-to-face.

A Return to Work Plan will provide suggestions on how to assist the employee to return to work. This plan will be shown to the employee and with the employee’s consent, their employer and GP.

Fit notes

The Return to Work Plan can replace the need for the employee to provide further sick notes as proof of sickness absence.

Occupational health services

The initiative does not replace the employer’s occupational health service, which should be used in particular when employees do not meet the eligibility criteria listed above.

Tax benefits

The Return to Work Plan may recommend that the employer fund some medical treatment. If this is implemented, there are tax benefits. There is a tax exemption of up to £500 per year per employee for medical treatments that have been advised to assist the employee to get back into the workplace.

To find out more about the Fit to Work initiative, contact your Employment Law Adviser for guidance.