I’ve noticed recently that there have been many articles and comments regarding the introduction of the Government’s new Fit for Work service. The overriding theme appears to be anxiety about how the service will operate and whether it will meet the needs of individual organisations.
I am puzzled by this because I think Managers and HR professionals are missing the point. You don’t have to use the Fit for Work service if you have your own Occupational Health service.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the introduction of the new Fit for Work service. Occupational Health has always been the only form of medical care in the UK which is not free at the point of need. This new service will address this inequality for so many of the working population, who have hitherto had no access to this specialist advice.
I am also delighted that those who are trained and competent in law to provide advice on Occupational Health will at last be allowed to do so. GPs will no longer be able to give advice on Fitness for work which is ill advised and confusing to both employer and employees after an absence reaches 28 days.
It’s worth remembering also that Occupational Health is so much more than sickness absence. OH Clinicians are trained to provide an opinion on the diseases of occupations. They work closely with Health and Safety professionals to ensure health surveillance results confirm that control measures put in place to protect employees against Industrial disease, are working. This important aspect will not be replaced by the new telephone Fit for Work service.
So, those organisations who already work with OH nurses and OH Physicians can continue to do so. They will not need to change anything. Those companies who do not currently use OH are also free to use and build relationships with local OH professionals. They can then work with them to shape the OH service which best meets the needs of their business.
In reality, OH professionals have always worked with multidisciplinary teams to manage sickness absence cases and this will continue with the introduction of the new Fitness for Work service.
There is therefore no need to be anxious and worry about how the new Fit for Work service will impact on your organisation. Use the occupational health service you choose, to support your business aims and objectives and don’t think you have to have the Fit for Work service imposed on you….You don’t