Employers are aware of the service, but not taking it up, finds Maggie Williams

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The Government’s flagship occupational health service, Fit for Work, is still being underused by employers.

New research by PMI Health Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, showed that only 21% of employers have used Fit for Work. However, 82% are now aware of the scheme, an increase of 15% over awareness at the service’s launch in 2015.

The policy was introduced to offer wider access to occupational health for employees. Employers can refer anyone who has been off sick for more than four weeks to Fit for Work for a free 45-minute phone assessment from a healthcare professional. That assessment is used to build a Return to Work plan for the employee.

In addition to the assessment, Fit for Work also offers access to free online tools and guidance. In PMI Group’s survey, 68% of respondents said that the free health advice on offer was useful.

“Part of the problem may be that employers must wait until an employee has been absent for four weeks before referring them to an occupational health professional,” said Mike Blake, director of PMI Group. Instead, he added, many businesses opt for earlier intervention, taking a course of action that “does not easily include the Fit for Work service.”