When an employee is off work due to sickness for a long time, businesses, particularly small businesses, can find it difficult to cope.
There is a very strong evidence base for sickness absence that shows that the sooner the causes of absence are identified, and acted upon, the better. Intervention at four weeks, compared to six months, has a far greater impact because an employee is more likely to still have an attachment to work. The longer an employee is off work, the lower their chances of ever returning.
To tackle this issue, the government developed a new range of free services towards the end of 2014 that would help employers and employees in this situation. The key element of Fit for Work is an independent occupational health assessment and development of a plan to help the employee to get back to work.
The service is delivered by a private sector partner in England and Wales and by the NHS in Scotland. There are no equivalent plans for Northern Ireland.