Occupational health teams keep people well at work – physically and mentally. This service will help keep your employees healthy and safe whilst in work and manage any risks in the workplace that are likely to give rise to work-related ill health. Research shows that good health is good for business and better workplaces have better financial results so correctly making occupational health referrals are imperative for both employers and employees alike.
Employers are not responsible for all aspects of their employees’ state of health, but they are charged with a duty of care, ensuring the employee is medically fit for a certain job and that the work conditions do not cause adverse health effects on one of their workforce (such as an occupational illness).
The initial stage for a manager is the referral itself where the manager will open a dialogue with the OH. The questions at this stage should be specific to the employees needs so the right course of action can be taken to enable the employer understand what their employee needs to:
- feel better
- return to work
- do their job
- address any problems that could cause further health or absence issues
After making the occupational health referral the second step is for the manager to explain to the employee the purpose and procedure for the referral and obtain their consent to be referred to occupational health. The manager should then prepare and submit the form with the specific reasons for the referral to OH clearly stated.
The OH assessment itself will then take place. The occupational health adviser might ask the employee about:
- their health problem
- any treatment they’re having
- any concerns they have about returning to work
Sometimes the Occupational Health Adviser might need to get more information from the employee’s doctor. In this case, the employee should be told the reason and asked to sign a consent form. The employee also has the right to see the doctor’s report before it is sent to the occupational health adviser and whether the employee gets paid for attending occupational health appointments is down to the individual workplace policy.
The OH report
The Occupational Health Report will be a thorough overview of the employee’s current medical status and their future capacity to return to work in a successful manner. It should only focus on the employees’ fitness to return to work, and should not include other performance issues unrelated to their health issues. Written and informed consent is needed from the employee for this report, and the General Medical Council guidance recommends that the employee has the right to see the report before it is sent to their manager. The occupational health report should then be sent to the manager, with a copy to the employee and HR.
The final stage is the manager receiving the report and acting accordingly to help and assist the employee in moving forward. They might agree that the employee needs:
- a phased return to work, for example reduced working hours or lighter duties
- a referral for an appropriate course of therapy, for example physiotherapy or counselling
- adjustments to their workspace, for example an ergonomic chair
- more time off work
Depending on the health issue, the employee’s progress might need to be assessed again before a firm agreement can be made about their return to work or to full duties. The OH’s role is to stay completely impartial and objective – not on either employer’s side or that of the employee and the OH practitioner should be a bridge between the two, able to provide advice and guidance on how best to address the given situation.
A collaborative approach between the line manager, HR and OH is ultimately the most favourable way to bring about a resolution of the underlying situation in which an employee’s health might be of relevance to their ability to carry out their occupation, and to bring the best potential outcome for both employee and employer.
For further information on making occupational health referrals please contact us here.