At the end of March, the Government’s Fit for Work assessment service came to an end, blaming low referral rates. The advice helpline and website remain up and running offering employers, employees and GPs general health and work advice on sickness absence.
A client was recently provided with a fit note for an employee claiming to have hurt his neck. The note suggested a reduction in hours for the fortnight’s duration and workplace adjustments which were to limit the weight the employee should lift during the period.
The fit note also suggested an occupational health referral, but as with many small companies, our client doesn’t have their own occupational health department.
The whole system is now under review and the Government has announced several proposed significant changes to fit notes, sick pay and, potentially, to occupational health itself. They have committed to setting up an expert working group to help build the evidence base around occupational health and to consider new funding models and “where responsibility for OH support should fall”.
In the meantime, a small business will need to turn to an external occupational health provider should an assessment be required and referral need to be made. Employers should discuss this with their insurance provider in cases where an employee has issues due to an injury sustained at work.
A management referral for occupational assessment must be made with the employees full knowledge and consent and the medical assessor should be aware of all relevant facts about the case to ensure that the advice given is meaningful.
The assessor should be provided with a full job description or job tasks in order to fully understand the nature of the work as varying levels of physical and mental capability are required for different jobs.
The report produced by the independent assessor will offer answers to the questions posed in the original referral letter and may contain recommendations for you to consider, such as adaptations to the workplace, phased return to work after absence, and work adjustments. It is up to you to decide whether or not to implement any recommendations, although reasonable adjustments to comply with the Equality Act 2010 should be made for those with a disability.