Shortly before Christmas, the Government launched a programme called Fit for Work, which aims to support people in work who have health conditions. An advice line has been set up and a national rollout will take place over the next few months, with an expected coverage across 45 NHS Occupational Health teams at more than 100 sites offering face-toface appointments.
The target is to facilitate a meeting within five days of a person being referred to the service. A study of General Practitioners suggests that around a third of employees likely to be incapacitated for four weeks or more might be referred.
The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that referral rates will be somewhere between 10% and 70% of those eligible. Critics claim that employees may be steered back to work before they are fully fit, and a poll of 1500 workers found that four out of five people supported this negative view. On the basis of this scepticism, it remains to be seen how many employees will be prepared to take part in this voluntary scheme.