Are employers ready to keep employees fit for work?



Cigna UK HealthCare Benefits (Cigna UKHB) shares findings from new research on employer readiness to adopt the Department of Work and Pension’s (DWP) new Fit for Work occupational health service. As the DWP is currently rolling out their new Fit for Work occupational health service, Cigna UKHB commissioned research through YouGov to check awareness and engagement levels amongst both employers and General Practioners (GPs). Worryingly, more than 75% of employers and 60% of GPs are not aware of the DWP’s new service, which provides free occupational health information and assessments. Even fewer are aware that the DWP scheme also allows tax relief up to £500 of medical treatment per employee each year.

Cigna UKHB Managing Director Phil Austin commented, “The DWP initiatives to help employers with the rising costs of sickness absence are definitely a positive step. However, the Cigna research points to a need for more widespread communication on the Fit for Work scheme. At the same time, employers and GPs need better understanding of each other’s roles in managing sickness absence.”

The DWP is aiming for the Fit for Work service to be fully operational across the UK by late 2015. It relies on GPs referring individuals to the service if they are going to be off work for four weeks or more. However, the Cigna research shows not only are the majority of GPs unaware of the service, those that are aware don’t always think it is their role to make the referrals. Meanwhile, employer awareness of the scheme is lowest amongst small businesses. This is particularly concerning as they have been identified as having the greatest need for the support available through the Fit for Work scheme.

Having a proactive approach to managing sickness absence is an important aspect of keeping employees fit for work. But employers also need to think about the preventive measures that can help avoid episodes of sickness in the first place. These include health education, health screening and private medical plans.

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