Can employers use their own occupational health advisers instead of the Fit for Work service?
Yes. There is no obligation on employers to refer employees to the Fit for Work service for an occupational health assessment. An employer can use its own occupational health advisers for the assessment of and advice relating to an employee, instead of the Fit for Work service.
However, employees can be referred to the Fit for Work service by their GP, so an employer may still be contacted by Fit for Work about an employee, even if it has not made the referral itself. The Department for Work and Pensions' Guidance for employers states that an employer's existing occupational health services could be incorporated into the formation of the return-to-work plan by Fit for Work and could be involved in facilitating the recommendations under the plan. There is no obligation on an employer to follow the recommendations of the Fit for Work service.
The Government has announced that the Fit for Work assessment service is to close, following low referral rates. A government announcement on 30 November 2017 stated that the assessment services will come to an end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and 31 May 2018 in Scotland. The website and telephone advice service will continue to operate. The Fit for Work service in England and Wales has confirmed that its referral service will close on 15 December 2017 and that any employees already referred to it by that date will continue to receive a service for up to 90 days.