The Government has issued guidance for employers on the new Fit for Work Scheme. The Scheme is not yet fully operational but the DWP have confirmed that they expect it to be so within the next few months. The telephone helpline is already operational.
Fit for Work provides a free health and work advice service through a website and telephone line to help with absence prevention and free referral for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, four weeks of sickness absence. Following the assessment, the case worker will prepare a Return to Work Plan. The aim of the service is to help employees to return to work sooner.
In addition, from 1st January 2015 the Government introduced a tax exemption of up to £500 (per year, per employee) on medical treatments recommended to help their employees return to work. This exemption will apply to treatments recommended by health professionals within Fit for Work and health professionals within employer-arranged occupational health services.
If an employee has been, or is likely to be, absent from work through sickness or injury for a period of at least four weeks and medical treatment, such as physiotherapy, is recommended to assist the employee to return to work, the employer may pay medical costs of up to £500 per tax year without giving rise to a taxable benefit for the employee. The exemption applies whether the cost of treatment is met directly by the employer or reimbursed to the employee and, in either case, provided the payment or reimbursement is not pursuant to a salary sacrifice or flexible benefit arrangement. Any payment above the £500 limit will be liable for tax and national insurance contributions on the excess. To view the Guidance, click here.