Guidance for employees

  1. How will an assessment help?
  2. Eligibility
  3. When will a referral be made
  1. After being referred
  2. Return to work plan
  3. Tax exemption and sick pay
  4. Feedback

1. How will an assessment help?

Our referral service allows you to access a work-focused assessment for return to work recommendations. Your employer, or GP, can refer you for an assessment but only if you're eligible and give your consent.

About the assessment

Our assessments are:

  • Free — assessments are free for both you and your employer.
  • Quick — a telephone assessment will be conducted within two working days, a face to face assessment will be conducted within five working days.
  • Supportive — the assessment isn't mandatory but it will provide you with a plan to take to your employer to help you back into work. A return to work plan can be used in place of a fit note.

If you're referred by your employer or GP, a case manager will contact you within two working days of a referral and you will receive:

  • an assessment by a qualified health professional.
  • a tailored return to work plan that's specific to your needs.

If you've requested a face-to-face assessment, this will happen after five working days of the initial referral.

This return to work plan will reflect the assessment, advice and recommendations that you have agreed with your case manager. This can be sent to your employer and GP, but only if you give consent.

2. Eligibility

You will be eligible for an assessment if you:

  • live and work in Scotland
  • are in paid employment
  • are referred by your employer or GP
  • are, or are likely to be, absent from work for four weeks or more
  • have not been previously assessed by the service within the last 12 months
  • agree to being referred for an assessment.

You won't be eligible for the assessment part of Fit for Work Scotland if you:

  • are attending, or have returned to work
  • plan to refer yourself (self-referral)
  • are unemployed or self-employed
  • have received an assessment and return to work plan from Fit for Work within the last 12 months.

3. When will a referral be made

Your GP will normally refer you if you've been off, or are likely to be off, on sickness absence for four weeks, but only if you give consent. However if your GP has not done so, your employer can refer you for an assessment after four weeks of being off sick, providing you give consent.

Can I be referred earlier or later than four weeks?

You can be referred earlier or later than four weeks if:

  • it's obvious you will be absent for four weeks — an earlier referral may help shorten the time you are off work
  • a referral may not be appropriate at four weeks, but could be suitable at six weeks — for example, if you're recovering from hip replacement surgery.

When is a referral unnecessary?

Your employer or GP shouldn't refer you for an assessment if:

  • you're self-employed or unemployed
  • in the GP's clinical judgement, you don't have a realistic prospect of returning to work
  • you're a hospital inpatient
  • you're at an acute phase of a medical condition.

4. Consent

You must give your consent before your employer, or GP, can refer you. If you don't give consent, you shouldn't be referred for an assessment.

Consent must be explicit, informed and freely given:

  • before you're referred for an assessment
  • when you enroll in the service
  • before and during the assessment.

You can withdraw consent at any point during the process.

5. After being referred

After your employer, or GP, makes a referral, a case manager will contact you to conduct a telephone assessment at a convenient time — usually within two working days of receipt of referral or five working days for face-to-face, if you have requested this.

During the assessment

The assessment is carried out by health professionals who act as case managers through to the end of the process and are the single point of contact for you and your employer.

It might be necessary to contact your employer as part of your assessment. Before we contact your employer, we will ask for your consent.

During the assessment, the case manager will:

  • try to identify the obstacles preventing you from returning to work
  • agree a plan designed to address each obstacle to enable a safe and sustained return to work.

We have access to specialist musculoskeletal and mental health advice and, where necessary, we will engage with these services before developing your return to work plan.

If your case is complex, we may need to complete further assessments before a plan can be developed.

After the assessment

After the assessment, the health professional will share the return to work plan with you, your employer and your GP subject to agreeing consent.

This plan will detail steps to support you back to work. These are recommendations and don't change your GP's clinical judgement. Making adjustments to support you back to work is the responsibility of your employer.


You will automatically complete using our service once:

  • you've returned to work
  • you've started a phased return to work
  • Fit for Work Scotland is no longer appropriate
  • you've reached 12 weeks of engagement.

Change to circumstances

If there's a change to your health condition, your GP should address this based on their clinical judgement.

If there's a change in relation to any other factor, your case manager will help you to address this.

In these situations, your GP or case manager will decide whether you can continue with, or be withdrawn from, the service.

Is it mandatory for employees to engage with Fit for Work?

Fit for Work Scotland is not a mandatory service as you will need to provide consent. We do however recommend that you consider engaging with Fit for Work Scotland if you meet the eligibility criteria.

6. Return to work plan

Following an assessment, responsibility for making changes lies with you, your employer and your GP. It is not mandatory for your employer to make the changes we recommend in your return to work plan.

Fit note

If your employer, or GP, plans to refer you for an assessment, you should ensure there is a valid fit note to cover the referral and initial assessment time. A two week period is usually sufficient. 

If you don't have a fit note, your employer might accept another form of evidence to cover a sickness absence. What evidence they accept should be covered in your sickness policy (attendance management policy) or contract of employment.

More about the fit note.

Evidence of sickness absence

Your employer can accept the return to work plan as evidence of sickness absence in exactly the same way as a fit note, so your GP won't need to issue repeat fit notes during the time you're engaged with us (up to 12 weeks).

If you're still engaged with us after two weeks, you can use your return to work plan as evidence of sickness absence instead of a fit note.

7. Tax exemption and sick pay

If you require medical treatment as part of your return to work plan, your employer may be entitled to a tax exemption of up to £500 per year.

This sum can help fund treatments recommended by the Fit for Work Scotland case manager or employer-arranged occupational health service.

Sick pay

Your choice to use, or not use, our service doesn't affect your Statutory Sick Pay entitlement.

Find out what sick pay you might be entitled to.

Access to Work

If you meet the criteria for Access to Work, you can apply for financial support to help pay for items, such as:

  • adaptations to equipment, or specialist equipment to help them do their work
  • expenses for appropriate transportation
  • a support worker or job coach to help in the workplace.

There is no set amount for an Access to Work grant. How much you'll get depends on your personal circumstances.

Find out more about Access to Work through GOV.UK.

8. Feedback

To help with the continuous improvement and monitoring of the service we will contact you after you've completed using our service to gather feedback about your experience. This will take the form of a short email or telephone questionnaire.

Fit for Work is audited by independent, authorised auditors, who will review a proportion of the case records, so that they can monitor the service.

The service is also being independently evaluated for quality and efficiency. You may be contacted in the future by a third party who is working on the Fit for Work evaluation.

Fit for Work Guidance

To support Fit for Work, the Department of Work and Pensions has produced guidance to help employees, employers and GPs to make the best use of the service.

Read the guidance on GOV.UK

NHS inform

Find more information on an illness or condition that may be affecting your work.

Visit NHS inform