19 October 2015 by

Q & A – Fit For Work (FFW)

What is FFW?

FFW is a Government-funded initiative and is designed to support people in work with health conditions and help with sickness absence.

There are two aspects to this service:

  • Free health and work advice through its website [http://fitforwork.org/] and telephone advice line [0800 032 6235] to help with absence prevention.
  • Free referral for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, four weeks of sickness absence.

Who is delivering FFW?

Fit for Work is being delivered in England and Wales by Health Management Ltd and in Scotland by the Scottish Government.

What can I expect from the online and telephone advice service?

FFW can be contacted online through its website or by telephone, as many times as required. It can give employees, employers and GPs advice about work-related health matters (when an employee’s health condition is affecting them at work) or when an employee is off sick from work. The advice can help identify adjustments that could help an employee remain in, or return to, work.

Do my employees have to consent before a referral is made?

Yes, the service is voluntary. Employees must give verbal consent to be referred and again to have their Return to Work Plan shared with their employer and/or GP.

What will the Occupational Health Professional do?

The occupational health professional will identify obstacles preventing the employee from returning to work and produce a Return to Work Plan tailored to the employee’s needs.

Who are the occupational Health professionals?

FFW is delivered by registered occupational healthcare professionals who have occupational health qualifications; have occupational health experience; or are able to demonstrate experience and skills appropriate to working in an occupational health context. Their expertise will ensure that FFW will identify the full range of issues preventing a return to work and provide appropriate advice in line with best practice.

Occupational health professionals delivering FFW will be appropriately supervised and it will be under the overall direction of an accredited specialist in Occupational Medicine.

Who makes the referrals?

Referrals will normally be made by GP’s but employers may also be able to refer an employee, if after four weeks of absence, they have not yet been referred.

When is the trigger point for referral?

A GP can make a referral before four weeks if they judge that the employee will be absent for four weeks and that a referral may be beneficial. An employer can refer only after four weeks.

What can I expect from the Return to Work Plan?

A Plan will cover a specified period of time and will state whether an employee is fit for work or whether they may be fit for work, subject to their employer being able to follow certain recommendations. Where appropriate a Plan will include:

  • A timetable for progressing interventions and for returning to work.
  • Advice for the employee and their GP.
  • Reference to further potential sources of assistance, for example, Access to Work which can provide support, such as specialist aids and equipment or support workers, for qualifying employees.

The parties are “encouraged to act on the recommendations” but it remains for the employer to decide whether to implement them.

How will employees be discharged from FFW?

Employees will automatically be discharged from FFW:

  • Two weeks after they have returned to work (including beginning a phased return).
  • On the date when FFW decide that there is no further assistance they can offer the employee, which will be either when the employee has been with the service for three months, or at the point that FFW decides that the employee will be unable to return to work for three months or more.

How does FFW affect an employee’s statutory sick pay (SSP)?

A Return to Work Plan can be accepted by your employer as medical evidence of whether you are fit for work in place of a fit note for SSP purposes. You should not need a fit note in addition to a Return to Work Plan where you have chosen to share your Return to Work Plan with your employer, although this may not happen in every case.

FFW is not mandatory and a Return to Work Plan may not be prepared in every case and therefore a fit note can still be issued if it is required in your GPs clinical judgement.

More information can be found on the FFW website.

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