The Government’s national Fit for Work scheme was unveiled earlier this year in a bid to tackle long-term sickness absence in the workplace across England, Scotland and Wales.There’s no denying that sickness absence is a common problem affecting workplaces up and down the country. In 2014, sick bills cost UK businesses over £15 billion and by the end of this year it’s projected to cost £16.1 billion.* (For more details on the cost of absence to the UK economy, check out our infographic, ‘The true financial impact of absence on UK businesses.’)
In the second instalment of our special, two-part Fit for Work blog, Commercial Director, James Arquette, explores the impact of the new initiative on long-term sickness absence and the benefits of the scheme for employees and employers.
It’s inevitable that Fit for Work will have an impact on long-term sickness absence levels however, the extent will very much depend on the size of organisation
1. Small to medium
Small to medium-sized businesses are likely to see their long-term absence decrease once they’ve learnt how to effectively manage the information generated by the scheme and implement Return to Work plan recommendations.
What’s more, organisations of this size, especially smaller companies, don’t always have consistent processes or any form of intervention in place to effectively manage long-term absence. Fit for Work enables them to immediately plug both of these gaps.
Unlike smaller businesses, large organisations are more likely to have an absence management scheme in place with assessment processes that are similar to the Fit for Work processes. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t see an improvement in their long-term sickness absence.
While Fit for Work assessments aren’t compulsory, employees with a genuine reason for long-term sickness will welcome this early intervention (four weeks), enrol in the process and, in turn, give full consent for their employer to be involved. This will ultimately result in a speedier recovery and return to work, which is good news for both the employer and employee.
Small and medium-sized businesses are likely to benefit the most from Fit for Work
Fit for Work provides smaller employers with an extremely valuable resource they wouldn’t necessarily have had access to until now. They can now freely access guidance and support from highly qualified and experienced occupational health experts, who can help them manage their medium to long-term sickness absence.
In contrast, large employers may feel less of a benefit from Fit for Work as, more often than not, they’ll already have an internal absence management scheme in place.
Employees with genuine medium to long-term illnesses are also set to benefit from Fit for Work. There’s now a defined process in place that will assist their recovery, provide them with prompt access to professional clinical advice and, in certain situations, help educate both employees and employers on the importance of early intervention.
Find out more about what Fit for Work means for employers and the key factors they should consider by reading our blog, ‘Fit for Work: key considerations for employers.’
* Figures generated by FirstCare’s absence management reporting systems.