Fit for Work, the government-backed scheme to help people on long term sick leave back into work, will only be effective if businesses fully embrace it, says employment law firm Law at Work.

The scheme, already implemented in some areas of the country, will make occupational health advice more accessible to both employers and employees, with the aim that sickness absence can be better managed.

Donald MacKinnon, director of legal service at Law at Work, said:

“Anything that gets people off long term sickness is a good thing – not just for the individual, but for the business and the State.

“Employees on mid to long-term sickness absence can be referred by their GP for a free telephone health assessment and return to work advice. It is hoped that these steps could help ease employees back to work quicker and in a healthier position.

“The longer an employee is absent from work, the less likely they are to return. Therefore any assistance employees can receive to improve that situation will benefit everyone. Individual employees will have the chance to receive self-help advice and details of organisations which may be able to help them improve their health.”

A government review of the UK’s sickness absence system revealed that over 130 million days are lost to sickness absence each year, costing in excess of £15 billion to the UK economy.

The main aims of the new scheme are to:

  • support people to reduce the length of sickness absence
  • reduce the chances of people falling out of work and on to benefits
  • increase awareness of the benefits of working to persons health
  • increase the positive actions taken by employers, employees and GPs in contributing to a change in attitudes towards health and work