Fitness to Work as Part of Medical Assessment: Why Is It Important

When an individual is not feeling well, their ability to work may be compromised. That is why employers and insurance companies require fitness-to-work assessments to determine a person’s fitness to do their job or return to work following a period of absence due to illness or injury. In the assessment, an occupational hygienist will assess a person’s fitness for work. This article talks about how these assessments are done and why they’re important.

Reasons for Getting a Fitness to Work Assessment and Why It’s Important

The fitness to work assessment is important because it helps identify any potential risks that the employee might face when returning to their job, whether this is a physical or psychosocial risk. It should not be seen as just a bureaucratic process that needs to be completed for an individual to start receiving benefits; rather, it’s an opportunity for both the employer and the employee to discuss any potential concerns they have with regards to the worker returning. This type of dialogue can help ensure that both parties are on the same page with regards to what is expected from each other and will hopefully prevent any misunderstandings down the road.

Below are reasons why you need fitness to work assessment:

To provide employers with assurance

One of the main reasons why getting a fitness to work certificate is important is because it provides employers with peace of mind. Having a professional complete an assessment helps ensure that employees who have been absent due to illness or injury can return in a safe and timely manner. This, in turn, can help reduce any lost productivity that might occur when an employee is out of the office.

To determine workers ability to perform their duty

The fitness to work assessment helps determine whether an individual can return to their job or if they must seek alternative employment options. Returning to work after illness or injury will depend on many factors related to the person’s occupation, not just physical ability due to any given condition or symptom that may affect them at a particular point in time. 

To assess workers coping skills

It is also important to assess how well individuals handle stressors related to the workplace, not just physical ones, but will also depend on personal factors such as their coping skills and resilience; which can be impacted by the individual’s social network, ability to seek help from others (i.e., family/friends). The examiner will also find out if they have any conditions like diabetes that may affect their health but might not even be apparent when they come in for a return-to-work interview. 

To check if workers can return to their job safely

Some employers require employees who are absent due to illness or injury during the fitness period needs to undergo a fitness to work assessment before returning to work. This helps employers determine if the workers can safely return to their job or if they need some type of accommodations to do so, like a phased-in return where they might start working only a few hours per day at first and gradually increase their hours as they get stronger. 

Who Performs the Fitness to Work Assessment?

The assessment is done by a certified occupational hygienist that completes fitness assessments under the direction of their supervising physician (i.e., general practitioner/family doctor, rehabilitation specialist). To become certified as an occupational health professional, they have to complete formal training from one of many schools that offer courses related to assessing fitness for work. 

To complete a fitness to work assessment, certified occupational hygienists will meet with the employee and ask them a variety of questions about their medical history and current state. They will also review the individual’s job duties and identify any potential risks that they might face when returning to work and recommend the best psychosocial risk management. The fitness professional might also request that the employee provide them with some documentation from their doctor or medical advisor (e.g., sick notes, treatment plans, etc.), which they can then use to develop a report outlining the individual’s fitness status. 

The Bottomline

If you’re thinking about returning to work after an illness or injury, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor and/or certified occupational hygienist about getting a fitness to work certificate. This will help ensure that you’re able to return in a safe and timely manner. 

If you love what you read so far, check out our website for more information on how you can get fitness to work assessment and related topics.

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