Do employees have to give their consent for a referral to the Fit for Work service to be made?

Yes, employees have to give their consent before a referral to the Fit for Work service can be made about them, whether the referral is made by their GP or employer.

Fit for Work is a Government-funded service providing advice for employers, employees and GPs on matters relating to health and work. An employee's GP or employer can refer the employee to the service for an occupational health assessment where he or she is absent from work for at least four weeks. If an employer intends to refer an employee to Fit for Work, it should discuss this with the employee, fully explaining the purpose of the referral, and ask the employee for his or her written consent.

In addition to the GP or employer obtaining the employee's consent before making the initial referral to the service, Fit for Work must obtain the employee's consent:

  • before the initial assessment takes place;
  • before it shares each version of a return-to-work-plan with the GP or employer; and
  • before it contacts the GP or employer or any third party, where this is necessary as part of the assessment.

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.