FitTogether is an initiative to raise awareness of the very important relationship between work and health. FitTogether is about doctors, employers and employees all working together to make sure that people who have an illness, injury or disability are supported as early as possible to help them stay at work or get back to work as quickly as possible. This is good for individuals, good for business and good for the economy.
It is difficult to believe but work is good for us! There are recognised benefits to our health and wellbeing of working and having a job!
Work gives us the opportunity to have contact with other people. It keeps us busy - whether that is because we are mentally or physically active, and we get the opportunity to use our skills and knowledge, or to develop and improve them which helps increase our self-esteem. This is all on top of earning money to pay our bills and spend on other things.
We also know that someone who has been away from the workplace for more than 6 months due to sickness is 50% less likely ever to return to work again.
In contrast, it is a well-known fact that high rates of sickness absence in the work place can have a negative impact for business:
- Most employers still pay wages when an employee is unable to work due to sickness
- Colleagues have to absorb additional workload when a team member is away from work
- High rates of sickness absence in some businesses result in low team morale and in turn, low productivity, low staff engagement and potentially low customer satisfaction
The information on this page provides some useful advice and guidance for workers and employers.
What is FitTogether?
- FitTogether is aimed at providing much more information about how employers, employees and health professionals should work together to make sure that someone who has been off of work due to illness, injury or disability gets the advice and support that will help them return to work more quickly.
- FitTogether is part of the SOHWELL project (Supporting Occupational Health and Wellbeing) which was created by Social Security. So far, the project has transformed the way sickness benefit claims are managed, improved the information that is provided on the medical certificate and introduced a new independent assessment of a person's ability to work which is called the Work Capability Assessment. The assessment identifies what a person can do and the type of support they might need to be back in work.
Why do I need to know about FitTogether?
- If you are someone off work due to sickness:
- At some stage, sickness affects us all and it can be expensive for both workers and employers. What is important is that you get the right advice and support early on and you keep your employer fully informed of how you are, what would help you to return to work and when you/your doctor think that might be.
- Working together it's possible that, with the right support, a health condition could be managed within the workplace. Even if this means some changes are made for a certain amount of time in agreement with your employer to help you get back to work. For more information about temporary restrictions or limitations and how these are assessed please use the attached links or contact the following providers
- Dr Robert Gallagher and Dr Ruth Swainston at Queens Road Medical Practice. Appointments for Occupational Health assessments can be arranged through Lisa Ogier on telephone: 724184 Email: OccupationalHealth@eqrmp.com
- Dr Phil Simpson at High Street surgery (Healthcare). Appointments for Occupational Health assessments can be arranged by phoning 711237.
- The States Occupational Health Service via email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are an employer:
- The more you know about how to support a staff member's return to work the greater the chance of a positive and early return from a period of sickness. We have provided a checklist in the downloads section of this page to help guide you to some of the tools and services that might be useful.
- If you would like more information about FitTogether or the SOHWELL project, please use the Contact Us box on this page.
- If you are in work:
- If you have an illness, injury or disability which is starting to impact upon your ability to do your job, you should think about talking to your employer. If you don't feel comfortable doing that you could discuss the matter with your doctor. You could also consider seeking advice from any other healthcare professional who is involved with your care. Social Security, the Guernsey Employment Trust and MIND Guernsey can also provide advice.
- If you are working you may be interested in FitTogether because one of your colleagues is off work due to sickness - we hope you will show this information to your line manager or a senior person in your organisation so that they can decide what information and services might be useful.
How can the doctor help?
- Generally speaking, once a person has been off work sick for 3 days most employers expect to see a medical certificate. Most medical certificates are issued by General Practitioners (GPs). The pink copy of the certificate should be given to Social Security (this is the claim for sickness benefit). The green copy should be given to the employer.
- As well as discussing your health condition, your doctor should also consider the work that you do and how your job or employment situation is affecting your health and wellbeing.
- If your doctor thinks you need a medical certificate to say that you need more time off work, they should also consider whether you could return to work earlier, if your employer made certain changes.
- Space is provided on the medical certificate for your doctor to list things that may help. Your doctor may suggest things like a phased return to work, adjusted hours, different duties or some other workplace changes which might help you return to work more quickly.
- The medical certificate is an important communication tool as it lets you, your employer and Social Security know what you can and can't do workwise.
- Your doctor won't know your job in detail, so if you have any ideas about what can be done to support your return to work, please discuss this with them. In some cases, your doctor might suggest that you visit an Occupational Health adviser.
How can employers help?
- Some employers aren't sure what to do when someone is off work sick. But generally an employer will be keen to have as few of their staff as possible away from work due to sickness.
- If you are an employer and a member of staff is on sick leave it is important that you keep in touch with that person on a regular basis.
- In many cases regular and open discussion between the employer and the person who is off work due to sickness can lead to early workplace support which means a return to work sooner than would otherwise have been possible.
- If I have been off work, what can I ask my employer to do to help me return?
- Tell your doctor what you think could be done at work to help you get back to work more quickly. If your doctor thinks this is a reasonable request it will be noted on your medical certificate
- Ask your doctor if you should visit Occupational Health to get more advice about what changes or "workplace adjustments" could be made to help you to return to work
- Talk to your employer openly and honestly and discuss any thoughts you have about what support or changes they could make to help you back to work.
- Not everyone will need a workplace adjustment, but in some cases it might be helpful. The medical certificate is meant to offer advice but is not a direct instruction for your employer. Sometimes adjustments are genuinely not possible, but this provides an opportunity to have a conversation.
- Your employer will consider your doctor's advice and using what they know about the job you do, your employer will decide whether the suggested adjustment is reasonable. Your employer won't just consider your own job (particularly for longer absence) but will be thinking of the organisation as a whole. This is because there might be something else you could usefully do in another team or section.
- If your employer needs advice on the type of adjustments which might be appropriate, they may want to consider getting some occupational health advice even if this hasn't been suggested by your doctor. If they don't already have access to this they may want to contact the following providers:
- Dr Robert Gallagher and Dr Ruth Swainston at Queens Road Medical Practice. Appointments for Occupational Health assessments can be arranged through Lisa Ogier on telephone: 724184 Email: LisaOgier@eqrmp.com
- Dr Phil Simpson at High Street surgery (Healthcare). Appointments for Occupational Health assessments can be arranged by phoning 256404.
- The States Occupational Health Service via email email@example.com
- Your employer may have to pay for this advice. Other Occupational Health providers may also be available on-island.
- You could also refer yourself to Occupational Health if you feel that you need a workplace adjustment to prevent you from being off work. You would have to pay for a self-referral to Occupational Health.
Returning to work
- You don't have to be 100% better before you go back to work. Neither do you have to wait for the end of the medical certificate. In fact, an earlier return to work can sometimes help people recover from a health problem.
- In many jobs / occupations there is no need to be signed back to work by a doctor first. As long as your employer has done a risk assessment their Compulsory Liability Insurance should cover an earlier return to work. But your employer will need to be sure that you can carry out your duties safely.
Where to get more information
- More information about the FitTogether initiative is available from Social Security. Please contact Social Security on 222507 or use the Contact us box on this page to email us. We will be updating the information on this page regularly, so we would be pleased to hear any ideas or suggestions you have about information that would be useful on this page.
- The attached links are based on UK websites and legislation so may not directly apply to your situation but they still contain helpful information about working with a health condition or the type of reasonable adjustments which might be beneficial.
Click the pictures below to view the posters for this campaign