The government is in the process of a phased launch of the new system, with both the English and Scottish schemes expected to be fully operational by May this year.
The purpose of the new scheme is to provide an occupational health assessment and general health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs with the aim of helping individuals stay in or return to work.
There are two elements to the service:
1. Assessment – once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, four weeks of sickness absence they will normally be referred by their GP for an assessment by an occupational health professional, who will look at the issues preventing the employee from returning to work
2. Advice – employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice by phone or via the website
Following an assessment, employees will receive a return-to-work plan with recommendations to help them return to work more quickly and information on how to get appropriate help and advice.
The advice provided will be free, independent and objective and is not intended to provide clinical care but instead should focus on getting employees back to work. This should be done in conjunction with any current occupational health service you may use.