Occupational Health Services – An Employer’s Guide

occupational health

Occupational Health services help employers keep staff physically and mentally well at work.

Businesses generally buy Occupational Health services from external providers when needed.

Occupational Health professionals support employers in managing and supporting employees with medical conditions or disabilities.

This may include advising on:

  • underlying medical conditions which may impact attendance or ability to undertake certain tasks
  • options for making reasonable adjustments to workplace, role or working patterns
  • phased returns to work following long term absence
  • likely timescales for a return to work and planning for the future

Occupational health appointments usually take place at an employee’s workplace, or at the external provider.

What is the aim of Occupational Health?

The 3 main aims of occupational health are to assist employers with:

  • encouraging safe working practices
  • monitoring employee health
  • supporting the effective management of sickness absence

When should I refer an employee?

You should refer an employee where:

  • you wish to seek pre-employment medical clearance as part of your recruitment process
  • they may have work-related health problems or if their health is being aggravated by work tasks
  • You or they are worried about returning to work after long term absence, such as after a serious illness, injury or work-related stress
  • you need advice on reasonable support or adjustments regarding their disability
  • there may be underlying health or medical factors contributing to performance issues
  • there is a pattern of frequent short-term sickness absence
  • where a formal process is occurring (for example disciplinary), the employee is off sick and you need advice on their fitness to attend a meeting

How to make a referral

To get the best advice from Occupational Health, they need to understand the employee’s role and your business. The referral will need to use their own referral process and include enough details for an assessment to be made:

  • job description and nature of the working environment,
  • nature of concerns, frequency of absence, reasons for absence and any steps already taken
  • any questions you need answering to help you understand how to manage the situation

Do I need Consent before referring an employee?

You will need consent from the employee for an Occupational Health referral.

You must discuss the reason for the referral with your employee and, where possible, seek their signed consent. If they can’t sign due to absence, clarify the process to be followed with your external Occupational Health provider.  General best practice would be to send a copy by post before forwarding the referral to Occupational Health.

Before requesting a referral, you should also agree with your employee who will need to see the Occupational Health report.

An Occupational Health advisor may wish to speak to an employee’s GP, consultant or disability advisor. Again, you must get your employee’s consent in advance.

If the employee withholds consent, ensure this is documented for future reference.   Continue to follow your sickness absence policy and management decisions can be made based on the information you have at that time.

The Occupational Health assessment

After referral, an initial assessment will take around 45 minutes. The assessment aims to identify an employee’s fitness to perform the job.

Assessment may be over the phone, or face to face. A visual assessment of an employee’s workplace may also be needed.

Occupational Health may also liaise directly with the employer for further clarification.

What can I expect from an Occupational Health Report?

Occupational Health reports are advisory only.

The content of a report will depend on:

  • the reason for the referral
  • the information provided by both employer and employee
  • the specific questions asked
  • specific recommendations

Medical details are usually only shared when necessary for managing the employee in their work, or when they have given their informed consent for the disclosure.

The report may provide information on:

  • any underlying health, medical condition or disability that may affect work attendance or performance
  • likely effects on future attendance/performance
  • how to provide support during absence
  • any time off needed for appointments
  • when they are likely to return to work
  • how to effectively support a return to work
  • advice on any workplace restrictions/adaptations
  • whether the disability provision of the Equality Act is likely to apply

Why should you use Occupational Health Services?

Occupational Health can keep employees in work, maximise attendance and equip them to do their job to the best of their ability.

They help employers to fairly address any issues and fulfill their legal obligations for staff health and wellbeing.

Obtaining independent medical advice demonstrates that a fair process has been followed and supports any management decisions which are made.

Occupational Health services help employees suffering from work-related injuries or ill health. They can confidentially discuss medical worries or health-related work difficulties.

If you need advice on working with Occupational Health Services, contact Debbie today. 07885 370054 or email debbie@concilium-hr.co.uk.

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