More than eight in 10 (82%) HR professional respondents are aware of the government’s Fit for Work service, compared to 70% ahead of the service’s launch in 2015, according to research by PMI Health Group.
Its survey of 71 HR managers and directors in medium to large organisations also found that less than a quarter (21%) of respondents report using the Fit for Work service.
The research also found that 60% of respondents believe that the service places too much focus on fitness to work rather than early intervention measures and phased returns to work.
More than two thirds (68%) of respondents find the free health advice offered through the service useful.
The Fit for Work service provides free work-related health advice via a website and telephone line. It also enables employees who are on long-term sick leave to be referred to an occupational health professional by their GP or employer to create a return to work plan.
Mike Blake (pictured), director at PMI Health Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, said: “It would have been fair to expect an increase in awareness of the Fit for Work scheme to have gone hand in hand with a reasonable level of participation but this clearly hasn’t happened.
“Part of the problem may be that employers must wait until an employee has been absent for four weeks before referring them to an occupational health professional. Many employers opt for early interventions, which can be so important in tackling long-term sickness absence, and they may be pursuing a course of action that does not easily include the Fit for Work service.”