Fit for Work scheme scrapped following complaints by employers

The government’s national ‘Fit for Work’ occupational health scheme is to be scrapped as part of a revised strategy to get more disabled people working.

Fit for Work was initially established as a free, GP-led service, before being extended to allow employers to refer staff in September 2015. It offered impartial advice to employers, and occupational health assessments for employees who were off ill for four or more weeks – aiming to reduce the bill for long-term sickness by getting individuals back to work as early as possible.

However, the scheme has been plagued by poor take-up and complaints from employers that felt it either replicated their own occupational health efforts or was too poorly publicised to have a significant impact on long-term illness.

After months of uncertainty over its future, the government has said that Fit for Work’s assessment services will end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and 31 May in Scotland, following “low” referral rates. Employers, employees and GPs will still have access to its helpline, website and web chat service, which offer general health and work advice, as well as sickness absence support.

The government is also considering changes to statutory sick pay “to better support phased returns to work”. A consultation will be launched to consider new guidelines that may include a reduction in the current level of pay.

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