My GP is suggesting I have a Fit for Work assessment with an occupational health professional. What does this involve?

The government is rolling out a Fit for Work service aimed at helping employees who are off work through illness or injury return to work more quickly.

Once an employee has reached or is expected to reach four weeks' sickness absence they can be referred by their GP for a Fit for Work assessment by an occupational health professional who, if the worker agrees, will look at the issues preventing a return to work. The referral will usually lead to a Return to Work Plan. If the worker agrees, the Return to Work Plan is then sent to the employer and the GP.

The assessment will be with an occupational health professional such as a nurse, doctor or physiotherapist and will often be carried out over the phone.

Anyone can be referred to the service so long as they are in paid employment, are off sick and are likely to return to work. 

There is also an advice line open to everyone who wants help with returning to work. The advice line for Scotland is 0800 019 2211 (open 9am – 5pm, Mon-Fri). In England and Wales it is 0800 032 6235 (open 8.30am – 6pm, Mon-Fri). There is also a Welsh Language line on 0800 032 6233.

The government has also introduced a tax exemption of up to £500 (per year per employee) on medical treatments recommended to help employees return to work. This will be available for treatments recommended by health professionals within Fit for Work and health professionals within employer-arranged OH services.