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Here are 3 of the key areas which have changed over the past 12 months and, so it may be useful to review your policies and procedures to make sure they are still relevant.

  1. GPs are no longer giving Fit for Work Advice

As an Occupational Health Nurse for over 30 years it’s interesting to reflect on how the management of sickness absence has changed over that time…. or has it? Traditionally HR and Small business owners have deferred to GP opinion on whether their employee can return to work and despite changes which have led to the establishment of the Fit for Work Service, this still appears to be the model many small business owners and HR follow. BUT…If you are still writing for GP reports, it really is time to reconsider.

Following the path which only leads to the GP, rather than using the Occupational Health medical professionals who are qualified and competent in advising on fitness for work, is a dead end as all you will get is the employee’s opinion through the GP on what they feel they need and have to pay for the privilege. GPs advise on medical issues and occupational health advise on work capability.  That is the difference.

Furthermore, because of the introduction of the Fit for Work Service and advice from the Government,  GPs no longer provide sickness absence reports and will signpost to Occupational Health in any case. This is a significant and very welcome change as now there is greater access to occupational health advice for all of the working population.

  1. The Government is giving you £500 per employee to help get them back to work.

There are now a much wider variety of options available to employers to bring staff back to work quicker. Occupational Health can give advice on what is needed to get employees back to work, but sometimes a diagnostic procedure is required to find out early what the problem actually is so that treatment can be started. Nowadays, access to private diagnostics is more accessible for all and long NHS waiting lists can be avoided. Yes, that’s right. Free cash to send your employee to have a diagnostic test etc

The Government has recognised that NHS waiting lists are a barrier to an early return to work and as part of the Fit for Work Service www.fitforwork.org employers can use a tax incentive amount of £500 per employee to access diagnostics (scans and Consultant appointments) for employees.

Further information is available on page 15 of the DWP’s Fit for Work guidance document www.gov.uk . The medical treatment Nowadays, access to private diagnostics is more accessible for all. Usually an EAP offers telephone counselling and many people prefer to be seen face to face. They can also be worried about confidentiality or just don’t know it exists due to poor publicity. Evaluating the effectiveness of an EAP is important. You may find that you are using all your budget on an EAP for mental health issues which is not used, when your absence statistics show that the most common reason for absence is back or knee pain and you should be looking at using your budget to access diagnostics.

Contact jean.fisher@theohbusiness.co.uk to discuss how working with me can improve sickness absence in your business