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Fitness for Work Assessments & Evaluations

Fit-for-work assessments might seem unnecessary, as employees often think they know best when they’re fit to return to work. Employers may be hesitant to incur more costs after an employee has had an extended break from work. But a fitness for work assessment can offer significant benefits to both the employer and the employee. 

What is a Fitness for Work Assessment?

A fitness for work assessment is an independent medical opinion on an employee’s capacity to work safely and effectively. The assessment is often tailored to the requirements of the job role, so the assessor will need an understanding of the tasks the worker undertakes. 

When Fitness for Work Assessments are Used

Assessments are used for employees who have manual or sedentary jobs, and workers may be senior or junior. A fit-for-work assessment may be required in the following instances:
  • Returning to work following a lengthy/serious illness or injury
  • An event or abnormal behaviour at work attributed to health or psychiatric issues
  • Poor attendance at work
  • A potential health condition that may impact a worker’s productivity or attendance

Why Fitness for Work Assessments are Important

Fitness for work evaluations is necessary in a range of instances. Employers are required to provide a safe environment for all workers, so they need to ensure that staff members are fit to reduce the risks of mishaps to themselves and their colleagues. It’s difficult for an employer to know when a worker should return to work, but an independent assessment can give an employer the confidence to ask the worker to do so. Without the assessment, employers may need to rely solely on the worker's judgment to feel well enough, which is not always the most accurate. 

Fitness for work assessments can also give employees peace of mind that they have recovered. Most employees won’t know what stage their recovery is at without the help of a medical professional, which is why the assessment is conducted by an expert who provides their medical opinion. 

Difference Between Physical & Mental Fitness for Work Assessments

Physical fitness for work assessment may evaluate the worker’s posture, joint stability, strength, cardiovascular fitness, and the ability to bend, squat, reach and complete manual handling tasks. The evaluation ensures the staff member can complete tasks that their role demands without the risk of a new injury or aggravating an existing one.   

A mental fitness assessment considers an individual’s state of well-being and how they feel, think and act. When a person is mentally fit, they can stay calm and respond appropriately to most situations. If a person returns to work when they’re not psychologically well, their mental health can deteriorate further due to work stress. 

Employees who are not psychologically fit may need more time off work to recover from the setback. Their poor mental health can also adversely impact their colleagues. In high-risk workplaces, staff must think clearly and quickly to prevent serious injury and possible death. 

A fitness for work assessment may recommend the employee seek professional treatment or take time before returning to ensure they are in the right headspace for work.

How Employers Benefit from Assessments

Requesting workers to undergo a fitness for work assessment ensures they won’t further injure themselves. Employees injured at work may be eligible for extensive sick leave or a workers’ compensation claim. The cost of a claim can increase the employer’s worker’s compensation policy ongoing.  

An assessment can also ensure the workplace continues to be safe for other employees. In many industries, a physically or mentally ill worker can endanger the safety of those around them, and everyone deserves to be safe while at work. 

Rather than being too cautious and requiring a staff member to stay away from work until fully fit, the assessment can identify and manage potential health concerns. By restricting or altering some of their tasks, a staff member may be able to return to work earlier, reducing the cost to the organisation. The assessment provides the employer with expert advice on what the worker’s role should and shouldn’t include. 

If an employer fails to organise an assessment and the worker hurts themselves or someone else, the employer may be liable under the Work Health and Safety Act.     

How Employees Benefit from Assessments

Returning to work too early after an injury or illness can cause a lengthy setback to a person’s recovery. Employees may think they’re ready to return, but an assessment may identify them as unfit for a period or unable to complete some tasks in the short or long term. On the other hand, some employees lose their confidence or think they aren’t fit to return long after they have recovered. But an assessment can give them the confidence they need to return.

Benefits of Returning to Work

A return to work often aids an employee’s physical recovery. They get physical exercise by commuting to work or completing manual tasks, which can benefit their cardiovascular health and keep them at a healthy weight. Work can also help strengthen muscles previously weakened by the injury or sedentary behaviour during recovery. Getting the green light to return to work can give workers the confidence they need. Many workers fear returning to work because of the risk of re-injury, but as we now know, an assessment can help overcome their worries.

Returning to work can also have significant mental health benefits for workers. Staying at home for lengthy periods can cause social isolation, depression, and anxiety. Some workers don’t realise they are suffering from poor mental health until returning to work. Social interaction with their colleagues and increased self-worth can positively impact a person’s mental health and well-being. Being back at work often means they can get involved in more social activities with friends and family on the weekends too.

Finding solutions to complex injury management cases and ensuring employees feel supported throughout the process can be difficult. Altius Group offers effective fitness for duty assessments that work to offer this support to employees while also ensuring a safe stay or return to work. Contact us online or call 1800 258 487 for more information.  

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