Employers and GPs can refer employees who have been absent from work due to sickness for four weeks or more for a free assessment by an occupational health specialist.
GPs will also be able to make referrals at an earlier stage, if it seems likely that the employee will be absent from work for four weeks. Government guidance suggests that a referral to FFW will be the ‘default’ position. However, it is not mandatory as it is dependent on both the employee’s consent and on the referring GP or employer considering that there is a reasonable likelihood of the employee making at least a phased return to work.
The service will be delivered by registered occupational healthcare professionals who have occupational health qualifications and experience. The FFW case worker will contact the employee by telephone to make an assessment within two working days of the referral. If deemed necessary, a face-to-face assessment will take place within five working days of this being decided, although this is expected to be in a minority of cases. Face-to-face assessments will take place within 90 minutes’ travelling time by public transport from the employee’s home address and the employee will be able to claim reasonable travel expenses from the FFW provider.
The case worker will look into all health, work and other issues that may affect the employee’s ability to return to work, including the impact of their condition and their job role. The case worker and the employee will try to formulate a Return to Work plan to address any obstacles preventing the employee’s return to work. If the employee consents, the case worker may contact an appropriate individual at the employer, or the employer’s own occupational health service, when formulating the plan for further details about the workplace context and possible adjustments that could be made.
In the next instalment of our Fit for Service series we take a closer look at the Return to Work plan…