About Fit for Work Scotland

Fit for Work Scotland is available to support a reduction in the length of sickness absence from work and reduce the impact that absence has on individuals, employers and the State.

The service aims to:

  • support people to reduce the length of sickness absence
  • reduce the chances of people falling out-of-work and on to benefits
  • increase awareness of the benefits of working to a persons health
  • increase the positive actions taken by employers, employees and GPs in contributing to a change in attitudes towards health and work.

Why is this service available?

Currently, over 130 million days are lost to sickness absence every year at a cost to the economy of around £15 billion. Employers face an annual bill of around £9 billion for loss of production and sick pay costs, and individuals face a loss of earnings of £4 billion. In addition to the financial consequences, sickness absence also negatively impacts on health and wellbeing.

It's estimated that Fit for Work Scotland will:

  • reduce employers’ sick pay costs by £8 million to £16.5 million per year
  • reduce the cost to the Scottish Government associated with out-of-work benefits by £3 million to £6 million per year
  • increase Scottish tax and National Insurance revenues by £10 million to £21.5 million per year (including £500,000 to £2.5 million in tax on interventions).
  • increase Scotland's economic output by £45 million to £90 million per year.

'Based on data produced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).'

Early intervention

There's a very strong evidence base for sickness absence that shows that the sooner the causes of absence are identified, and acted upon, the better. Intervention at 4 weeks, compared to 6 months, has a greater impact as an employee is more likely to still have an attachment to work. The longer an employee is off work, the lower their chances of ever returning to work.

Who is it for?

Fit for Work Scotland will help the following groups to work together to tackle sickness absence:

  • Employers — can access an independent assessment with individually tailored advice. The service will particularly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who currently have limited access to occupational health.
  • GPs — have indicated that they want more help with occupational health advice and understanding the work context of advice on absence.
  • Employees — the service will give information about how health conditions impact work, self-help advice and signposting to support organisations.

The service will particularly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises

How we can help

Fit for Work Scotland will help individuals, employers and GPs by providing:

  • access to quality, independent advice and a specialist work-focused assessment
  • a free and easy-to-use rapid early intervention service
  • recommendations on workplace adjustments
  • help with developing a return to work plan
  • assistance in managing employee’s expectations about the impact of their condition on their fitness for work
  • support around absence prevention
  • employers with the opportunity to claim a tax exemption on payments of up to £500 a year per employee to fund recommended medical treatments.

Advice service

The advice service provides employees, employers and GPs with information and support around health and work, including:

  • help with issue identification
  • information on the type of adjustments which could help the individual stay in or return to work
  • general work related health advice.

The advice service is provided through the Fit for Work Scotland website, and through a free advice line (0800 019 2211) open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Health and work advice for employees

Health and work advice for employers

Health and work advice for GPs

Assessment service

The assessment service provides employers, and GPs, with a referral route to access a supportive occupational health work-focused assessment for employees who could be absent from work for four weeks or more.

To request an assessment:

  • Employers can refer an employee using our online referral form
  • GPs can refer a patient through the SCI Gateway

Once referred, we will contact employees within 24 hours and they will receive an assessment by a health professional within 2 working days. This person will be their case manager.

Return to work plan

The case manager will identify any obstacles preventing the employee from returning to work and agree a return to work plan to address each obstacle to enable a safe return to work.

The plan will reflect the assessment, advice and recommendations that have been agreed with the employee and will be shared with the individuals employer and GP, with their consent.

More about the Fit for Work assessment

Who is providing Fit for Work Scotland?

Fit for Work Scotland is being delivered by NHS Scotland.