There’s a new way of dealing with occupational health matters coming your way…and it’s free!


There’s a new way of dealing with occupational health matters coming your way…and it’s free!


This is an interesting twist on occupational health referrals for dealing with long term sickness absences in your workplace. The Government reported that on average 960,000 employees had long term sickness absences from work between September 2010 and October 2013. Remember, a long term absence is regarded as a month or more. Reportedly, employers face an annual bill of £10 billion (depending on where you research the figures)  in sick pay and related costs. The new service is to be provided by Health Management Limited. The theory is that the service will reduce your sick pay costs by enabling employees to return to work earlier with practical “Return to Work Plans”.

“What’s the twist?” I hear you cry. Well the twist is that you as an employer, do not have to make the referral – the employee’s GP does that!  Having said that, you are able to make a referral if you wish. The service is currently being rolled out and will hopefully be available widely by May 2015. To make a referral the following criteria must be met:

·         The employee must have been absent for four weeks or more

·         There must be a reasonable likelihood of making at least a phased return to work

·         Must not have been referred for a Fit For Work assessment already within the last 12 months and have not received a return to work plan

·         Consent to the referral has been received from the employee

The 3rd bullet point is a concern. What if someone returns to work and two months later reports long term sick again? At this stage, it seems unclear

The primary route for referral is via the GP. After an absence has continued a month or is likely to, the GP will refer for an assessment by an occupational health professional – with the employee’s consent. After the assessment, employees will receive a return to work plan containing recommendations. The plan will be provided to the GP and the employer too.  Health Management may contact the employer to partake in developing the return to work plan and then issue you with a copy.

The service is designed to “complement” any existing arrangements you have with other occupational health providers although there does seem to be some lack of clarity on how this will work in practice. The return to work plan is expected to remove the need for a GP to provide a fit note as the detail in the plan will give details on fitness to work.

The intention is that once a referral is received from GP or employer, Health Management will contact the employee within two working days. Assessments will generally be by telephone although face to face meetings may be more appropriate in certain circumstances. 

Detailed guidance is available from


It’s a new way of working with Occupational Health referrals and only time will tell how effective this is.