Square Circle: New Fit for Work Programme



New Fit for Work Programme

Last April the government abolished the scheme where businesses could recover statutory sick pay if the total paid in the tax month was greater than 13% of gross national insurance contributions for that month. The justification was the cost of this scheme and that it did not encourage small businesses to manage their absence levels effectively. The plan is to use the £50 million per annum savings to fund an occupational health and work assessment advisory service.

The new Fit for Work is available now. Employers don’t need to use the scheme but free work & health advice will be available via a helpline/online access to give advice about work –related health matters including possible adjustments on return to work.

The main route to this service will be through GPs after the employee has been absent through sickness (or expected to be absent) for more than 4 weeks and expected to return to work. Employers can also refer staff, with their consent, if their GPs have not. The employee then has a telephone or face-to-face assessment by an occupational health professional who then becomes their caseworker. A return to work plan will be created ideally with input from the employer, with the individual’s agreement, and although not binding employers will be encouraged to follow any recommendations to facilitate a return to work.

Fit for Work will contact employers to gain a better understanding of the specific working environment and the role, to discuss where recommendations have not been put in place and to act as a facilitator where there may be a poor relationship between employer and employee.

The caseworker will contact the employee at regular intervals to gauge whether or not the return to work plan is on course. Further assessments can be arranged if there is a delay in the return to work. Once the employee has returned to work or where the service can provide no further assistance and the employee has not returned within 3 months, they will be discharged from the service.

There may be some difficulties with the new service where employees refuse to give their consent. If this happens the employee will not be referred to the Fit for Work scheme. Some GPs have also criticised the scheme for being punitive and the BMA has said it will boycott the scheme if doctors believe it is forcing people back to work before they are ready.

Businesses should familiarise themselves with the Fit for Work service and make their staff aware of the information available on the website and via the phone line. Employees should understand the benefits and purpose of the service and see it as an effort to inform and assist staff back to work. This is a service which could be a real support, for SMEs in particular, and give access to a valuable professional service to help manage absence.

For more information call Square Circle on
0141 248 7826 or www.squarecirclehr.com or visit


I hope that gives you a flavour of the main changes. If you would like to know more about these or get help to implement any policies or procedures then please contact Alison Welsh on
0141 248 7826 or email alison@squarecirclehr.com