The Fit for Work (FfW) service, which aims to reduce the impact of long-term sickness absence, has completed its nationwide rollout after going live across all of England.
The free service offers a structured programme to assist employees absent from work for more than four weeks due to illness.
This includes a telephone-based health assessment followed by a personalised return to work plan.
Managed support with employer participation is also available to assist employees back to work, but employers are only involved with the employee's permission.
The service is on-course to open to employer referrals from the autumn - at present only GPs in England, Scotland and Wales can offer to refer patients to the service.
The FfW is expected to be of particular value in small and medium-sized firms where there is no, or limited, employer occupational health support available.
It is estimated that less than a third (31%) of employees have access to occupational health services through their place of work.
According to government statistics, around 815,000 working people in England each year have sickness absence of four weeks or more. Research indicates that, without support, a significant proportion will struggle to return to their jobs.
In a poll conducted by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP), and shared exclusively with WSB, just one in four (26%) organisations expected to use the FfW when it was available in their area.
Encouragingly just 14% of the 126 respondents said they would definitely not be using the FfW, with 18% saying "maybe".
CBI director for employment and skills Neil Carberry said: "It's good to see the Government giving people extra support to get back to work after extended sick leave, and it will also mean that firms can avoid losing talented staff to long-term absence.
"Businesses welcome the Fit for Work service and it is great to see it rolling out nationally.
"In the longer term we would like to see GPs using service as a default option for those absent for four weeks or more," he added.
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