Businesses, particularly small businesses, can have significant problems coping when an employee is off work for a long time. There is a very strong evidence base for sickness absence that shows that the sooner the causes of absence are identified, and acted upon, the better. Intervention at four weeks, compared to six months, has a greater impact as an employee is more likely to still have an attachment to work. The longer an employee is off work, the lower their chances of ever returning to work.
The government recognised this was an issue and started a new range of services to help employers and employees in this situation towards the end of 2014. These services are still being developed but should be fully in place by the end of this year. The key element of ‘Fit for Work’ is an independent assessment of an employee which provides a plan helping the employee to get back to work.
The service is delivered by the NHS in Scotland and by a private sector partner in England and Wales. There are no equivalent plans for Northern Ireland.