Fit to work?
After two years, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is ending its Fit for Work referral and assessment service. This service offered a free and independent clinician’s view of an employee who has been off work for four or more weeks, providing insight for employers and employees about the prognosis of recovery and recommendations for a return to work where appropriate.
As an employee are you aware of what support is available if you are diagnosed with an illness? Or when you feel ready to return to work?
Stephen Williams, Wren Sterling’s HR Director explains the options for employees.
Support your company can offer
Statutory Sick Pay / Occupational Sick Pay
Any employee’s first port of call should be their Contract of Employment. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is currently £89.35 a week and will be paid from your fourth consecutive full-day of sickness for up to 28 weeks, stopping if you return to work. This is paid by the Government, and is not dependant on your employer.
Your employer may offer Occupational Sick Pay (OSP), to enhance the SSP provision. Your employer will determine the OSP rate (often this reflects your basic salary), and how long it continues – but it typically lasts between 4 weeks to 3 months in any rolling 12 month period.
Remember: You will not receive Statutory Sick Pay on top of your occupational sick pay.
If you’re wondering what support your Company offers your first port of call should be your Contract of Employment.
Your employer may offer access to Group Protection policies as part of a benefits package (such as Income Protection and Critical Illness Cover). If these are offered to you, you should consider them carefully, as these policies can help you financially if you are diagnosed with a critical illness, or prevented from working due to illness or injury.
You should also consider whether the level of cover offered is sufficient for you and your family and a financial adviser can help you determine this.
What you can do as an employee
Keep in contact with your employer
If you are unable to work, follow the absence reporting procedure and contact your Line Manager within the given timescales to talk about the prognosis and when you feel you will be able to return.
Find out what you are entitled to
Make sure you are aware of the rules around your OSP and SSP, and what your responsibilities are. These details can normally be found in your Contract of Employment. Having a better understanding of what you need to do to receive any support or OSP (if it is available) can make the future feel less uncertain if you were ever unable to work due to sickness.
Consider taking advantage of any Group Income Protection (GIP) or Group (Critical Illness Cover) CIC policies
In the worst case scenario, would you be able to survive on £89.35 per week? If not, consider these policies as a cost-effective way of protecting you and ensuring that you do not have to worry about your finances if you are diagnosed with a critical illness, or prevented from working due to illness or injury.
If your employer does not provide these policies, or you’re self-employed, or the level of cover you currently have is not sufficient, you should speak to your adviser to review your policies.
Managing your return to work
There is no one way to manage an employee’s return to work, but before returning to your workplace, it’s important to have a conversation with your Line Manager to discuss:
- Your Condition – It is important to inform them on how you are feeling and confirm the ongoing prognosis.
- Ongoing Treatment – Let your manager know if you are required to attend any regular appointments upon your proposed return to work. Ensure you declare any medicines you are required to take as this information can be vital in an emergency situation.
- A phased return – If you have been off work for a long period of time, reduced hours, working from home and access to various equipment will be discussed depending on your diagnosis.
- Risks to you or other employees – Are there any reasonable adjustments that need to be considered? Are you taking medication with side effects? Do you need to give yourself injections or store the medicine in a particular way (i.e. Refrigeration). Are you still contagious?
This discussion allows your Line Manager to conduct a risk assessment and consider a phased return or any reasonable adjustment that may need to be made to support your return to work.
Finding out more, and getting support
Even though the DWP’s assessments will no longer be available, you can still access their online library of advice (which includes resources for when you are at work or off work), or speak to a member of their support team via live chat. You can also speak to your GP. You can also find out more about Statutory Sick Pay and your eligibility on the gov.uk website.