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Guide to using occupational health
By: OHA Ltd
Our top tips will help you get the most from professional advice. That helps reduce legal risks.
You will need employee consent to share any personal details with occupational health services. Often it may already be in your contracts of employment.
Some employees may feel anxious about occupational health. It's best to be open and transparent.
Do say "we'd like to pay for professional medical advice so we can learn what we could do to help support you", but don't say "you're being sent to occupational health because we don't believe what you're telling us".
Occupational health works best it's transparent. It's best to be factual in any communications with a provider too, because employees can access any materials at any time.
Providers are obliged to offer a copy of a report to the employee. This is so it can be checked for factual accuracy.
The most common conditions assessed are anxiety, stress, depression, long-covid, bad backs, physical problems, cardiac issues, strokes, menopause, dependency issues, repeated short-term absence from work and post-surgical rehabilitation.
Occupational health clinicians have specialist qualifications in occupational health. That means the advice they provide is always robust and defensible.
The best questions to ask are always "open" questions; starting with 'what', 'when', 'which', 'how', 'who', for example. Using an open question will ensure that as much information is provided in the report as possible. However, if you only want to know if an employee is fit to work, then a 'yes' or 'no' answer may be perfectly acceptable.
If you'd like to ask about what adjustments could be considered to support someone, it's worth including the steps you have already taken, to give the assessing clinician as much context as possible.
Crafting a question as "We've adjusted the employee's hours, what else could we consider doing?" could be helpful. It will help avoid the clinician giving you advice that you've already tried.
Occupational health providers will need you to submit a referral in writing, usually in a standardised format, so the provider can demonstrate that they've conducted an independent and objective assessment.
Most referral forms will ask you to share the employee's contact details, the reason for the referral, a summary of what's led to the referral, the questions you'd like answering and possibly copies of any GP/Specialist reports you may already have.
Very rarely, employees can refuse consent to release the report. You're then able to make business decisions based upon what you do know about the case. There's more info in our full guide (https://occupationalhealthassessment.com/