What support should I get if I am off sick?

You should contact your GP if you are injured at work, or have an illness caused, or made worse by, your job (See Dealing with Doctors for more information). No matter where you work, the sympathy and support of your GP may be the only independent, professional medical help you can rely on. You should speak to your own GP even if you are receiving help from your employer's occupational health (OH) service.

Some employers provide an OH service, especially larger employers and those in the public sector (See our Workplace Help section for more information on this).

OH services may include:

  • a company doctor and/or nurse with specialist occupational health training;
  • an on-site treatment room and other facilities; and
  • specialist support, such as physiotherapy, counselling or an employee assistance programme (EAP).

There is also a government-funded Fit for Work scheme for employers needing to find OH provision for their staff. All employers and GPs in England and Wales can now refer employees who have been off work for four weeks or more for a free fit for work referral. But you must give your consent before a referral to the Fit for Work service can be made, whether the referral is made by your GP or employer.

Fit for Work Scotland accepts referrals by phone on 0800 019 2211.

The TUC has produced a guide for union reps on Fit for Work Referrals.

Free community-based OH services are also available in some towns and cities, some linked to GP surgeries. (Again, see our Workplace Help section for more information on this.)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced the following guidance for safety reps on how to support workers in need of rehabilitation to help them get back to work safely: Working together to prevent sickness absence becoming job loss .