fitness for duties

1 May 2024 posted by Recovery Partners

A Functional Capacity Evaluation is an assessment of an individual’s safe physical or psychological work capacity, whereas a Fitness for Duties Assessment measures their ability to perform a specific task. 

What is a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE)?

Functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) are a comprehensive, standardised assessment of an individual’s safe maximal physical or psychological work capacity, which is used to provide an evidence-based opinion of the individual’s safe maximal capacity for work at the time. This can be applied to their existing role if they have one, but more broadly to any type of work, for example in cases where an individual is job-detached or otherwise not working and requires the information from an FCE to determine the types of work they can safely perform.

FCEs are official assessments used in Workers Compensation claims and are often requested by insurance case managers to help to guide the rehabilitation process in the event of an injury, or by lawyers as part of a medicolegal assessment to assist in court proceedings. Recovery Partners uses a suite of standard tools as part of its physical FCE testing. There are two types of Functional Capacity Evaluation Assessments conducted: physical and psychological.

What is a Psychological Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A psychological functional capacity assessment evaluates an individual’s capacity to perform various psychological or cognitive tasks and offers a baseline measurement of that person’s current symptoms and fitness for work.

Our psychological capacity assessment utilises evidence-based psychometric tests that have been determined to be highly valid and reliable, this allows for an objective and standardised understanding of an individual’s current function including:

  • Symptom severity 
  • Ability to think clearly, concentrate and plan tasks 
  • Ability to interact with colleagues effectively 
What is a Physical Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) evaluates an individual’s physical capacity to perform various work activities related to their employment and provides clarity on an individual’s current capacity for work.

The assessment findings can also help guide treatment recommendations and evaluations of an individual’s return to work goal.

When is it required?
  • When it is unclear as to the individual’s ability to perform certain tasks and for what durations.
  • If an individual is reporting aggravations of their condition due to task performance within their rehabilitation programs
  • If there is a risk that an individual’s rehabilitation program may exacerbate their condition
  • When medical professionals require a greater clarity to help guide return to work planning
fitness for duties
What is a Fitness for Duties Assessment (FFD)?

Sometimes referred to as Fitness for Work assessments, Fitness for Duties assessments (FFDs) are used to evaluate an individual’s ability to perform the inherent physical or psychological demands of their job. The aim is to confirm if the employee can perform their job without compromising their own safety or that of their colleagues. These assessments are normally conducted when there are concerns about an employee’s overall physical or psychological capacity to satisfy the inherent demands of their role, usually in relation to a non-work-related condition.

Fitness for Duties Assessments comprise of a standardised interview to obtain a detailed medical history, plus relevant tests specific to the type of condition (if relevant) and specific job requirements. A job task analysis of the role provided by the employer, or a detailed description of the role including critical job requirements, is used to confirm the specific job requirements that need to be evaluated in the assessment. There are two types of Fitness for Duties Assessments conducted; physical and psychological.

What is involved in a Physical Fitness for Duties Assessment?

A series of activities are carried out during the assessment including:

  • A grip test
  • Cardiovascular fitness test (step test) 
  • Postural tolerance tests (sitting, standing, squatting, kneeling) 
  • Safe maximum lifting 
  • Capacity 
  • Endurance lift 
  • Evaluation 
  • Safe maximum carrying 
  • Capacity evaluation 
  • Observation of job 
  • Specific task performance 
  • Manual handling analysis 

Our Physical Fitness for Duties Assessments are conducted in-person, either on-site at the workplace or at a Recovery Partner’s office.

What is involved in a Psychological Fitness for Duties Assessment?

A Psychological Fitness for Duties assessment is performed by a registered psychologist and is conducted in a controlled environment (for example, our office locations). The procedure involves:

  • Referral actioned within 24 hours
  • Assessment scheduled at RP office location
  • Psychometric testing
    • Assessment of disorder and nature of psychological symptoms
    • Assessment of abstract reasoning ability
    • Assessment of executive functioning
  • Clinical interview with a registered psychologist
    • Semi-structured interview
    • Mental status examination
  • Report with capacity opinion provided within 5 days of assessment

Psychological Fitness for Duties assessments are usually conducted via telephone or via video platforms, but can also be performed at a Recovery Partners’ office.

At Recovery Partners, we can help you assess your work systems and assign employees the most suitable roles. In so doing, you will improve your organisation’s workplace health and safety performance resulting in fewer lost work hours, decreased insurance rates and compensation premiums.

Looking to make your own physical activity self-evaluation? Check out our free Physical Activity Evaluation. 

Our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789) or email

4 of 373

Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at