Fit for Work – free occupational health support

The impact of sickness absence can be particularly profound for small businesses, more so as many do not have access to occupational health services. The government-led initiative Fit for Work plugs this gap in occupational health provision by helping employers manage sickness absence through supporting employees to stay in, and return to work.

What does the Fit for Work service consist of?


There are two elements to Fit for Work:

  • Free, expert and impartial work-related health advice via the Fit for Work Advice Hub and telephone line (0800 032 6235 for advice in English, 0800 032 6233 for Welsh). A separate service is available in Scotland via and 0800 019 2211.
  • Referral to a health professional for employees who have been, or who are likely to be, off sick for four weeks or more.

What are the benefits of Fit for Work?

  • Employees return to work sooner so the costs of sickness absence are reduced.
  • Employers get access to free work-related health advice and free occupational health assessments for employees who have been off work with sickness for four weeks or more.
  • A tax exemption of up to £500 (per year, per employee) on medical interventions recommended by Fit for Work (or an employer-arranged occupational health service) is available.

How to refer to Fit for Work

Employers and GPs can refer consenting employees to Fit for Work. GPs can refer if they think their patient is off or is likely to be off work for four weeks or more, while employers can refer after four weeks if the GP has not already referred.

Following referral, the employee will normally be contacted by a case manager within two working days and offered a telephone assessment, which lasts approximately 45 minutes. The case manager and employee will discuss any obstacles preventing the employee from returning to work and, where appropriate, the assessment will result in a Return to Work Plan. This plan can be used in lieu of a Fit Note for statutory sick pay purposes, and outlines recommendations and a step-by-step plan for the employee’s return to work.

With the employee’s consent, this plan can be shared with their employer and/or GP.

How Fit for Work supported Lisa and her employer

Lisa, a 56-year-old Production Administrator at a trailer manufacturing plant in South Yorkshire, was unable to walk due to osteoarthritis in her knees, which was exacerbated by an injury in her right knee. As her job involved walking around a big plant, she was unable to work.

Lisa was referred to Fit for Work via her GP and had a telephone assessment with an occupational health professional the same day. After discussing all the issues affecting Lisa and her return to work, they worked together to come up with a realistic Return to Work Plan. With Lisa’s consent, this plan was then shared with her employer and GP.

A phased return was appropriate for Lisa, who was concerned that going back to work too quickly could make her arthritis worse. Lisa began her successful return to work by beginning with shorter shifts than usual. As Lisa uses a stick to walk around, Fit for Work also suggested doing some risk assessments on things like the fire evacuation policy, which her employer was happy to do. He found it helpful to speak to the Fit for Work case manager about Lisa’s specific situation and how best to support her return.

To find out how Fit for Work can help you and your business, call 0330 221 0280, email eqiisftowr.rnure@ifrokog or visit the Fit for Work website


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Anthony Byrne
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