Over a quarter of employers (27%) plan to signpost absent employees towards Fit for Work (FfW) in the absence of GP referrals.
Findings from the Jelf Employee Benefits 2015/16 survey revealed that a significant proportion (45%) of employers planned to communicate FfW to their staff during the next twelve months, indicating employers willingness to engage with the recently fully rolled out health service.
Almost seven in ten respondents planned to refer some (42%) or all (27%) of their long-term absences to FfW, which aims to reduce the impact of long-term sickness absence.
Another 22% would instead use their bespoke company sponsored occupational health scheme for such referrals. Only 3% of employers indicated that they would not be making any such intervention.
There had been previous concerns that GPs may not refer patients to FfW, or be universally aware of the service in the early years of its existence, and therefore many such referral opportunities would be missed.
Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits, said: "Evidence from the Fit Note exercise suggests that in the early years it is probably unlikely that many referrals to FfW will arise from family doctors.
"So it is hugely encouraging - and indeed important for UK absence rates - that employers remain willing to grasp the nettle of engagement with this new service.
He added: "Our figures suggest that many more absent employees will now benefit from an assessment by an occupational health professional either via Fit for Work, or a more bespoke company-sponsored occupational health arrangement.
"This can only be a good thing for all concerned."
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