My Work is sending me to occupational health: What to expect?

In this blog we will discuss what you can expect if your work is sending you to occupational health.

My Work is sending me to occupational health: What to expect?

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If your work is sending you to occupational health, it is most likely that they want to understand your fitness to work usually after an injury, an illness, or after you have taken an extended leave for a medical oncidotn. 

In brief, what you can expect is that you will be subjected to a consultation with an occupational health specialist, a medical assessment if required, and an occupational health report that will be sent to you and your employer after the assessment.

If your employer or your workplace manager is sending you to Occupational Health, here are  few things that you can expect:

Employers will seek consent

If your manager is trying to make an OH referral they will require the consent of the employee to join the meeting or the sessions with the OH specialist.

The process involves consent between employee and employer with a contractual agreement for the employee to provide such consent and to partake in a medical examination process. Usually, the requirement is added to the employee’s employment contract. 

In a situation where there is no contractual agreement, the manager will most probably sit you down and you will be made to understand that the lack of agreement may impact the employer’s ability to make a fully informed decision about the position.

Lack of consent will not stall the process, and a decision will be made based on available information which might not give the full picture of the employee’s situation.

It is best that you consent to the referral so that your employers can understand your condition, your reasons for absence, or your underperformance etc while making a decision to help you improve at your role as well as work in health promoting environments. 

A referral will be written and sent

After your consent has been gained, your manager will most probably write a referral to the OH specialist. For this, background information is very important so it is likely that your employer will come to you for your medical notes. 

In cases where your employer suspects there could be an underlying condition, it is important that you give them any medical reports from the doctor so that this can aid in the process of assessment to check whether the employee is fit for work or eligible for disability. 

In case that your do not have a former diagnosis or you have not been in treatment, a medical examination will also be part of your OH process, 

Information on background and medical history given to the OH specialist can be done via documents mailed or via phone call etc. 

Information that must be included for this includes:

  • the employee’s job role, hours or work and particular aspects of the work which maybe are causing the employee a problem
  • the relevant history of absence, the durations, reasons given by the employee, and whether any previous reports have been provided
  • details of any adjustments which have already been implemented and their effectiveness
  • The information should deal with the present issue and not a former medical issue. 

The consultation

Once information has been sent, there will be a consultation between employee and OH specialist where during the consultation, the OH practitioner will take all of the details that have been provided, including medical reports from the medical practitioner of the employee and go through it. 

In some cases where there are no medical reports, there will be a medical examination- usually done by an independent medical professional that the employee will be subjected to under consent. 

The OH practitioner is not a professional who does the medical examination nor do they treat the employees they are present to assess the condition and make suggestions to the employees and employers concerned with how they can move forward regarding employees job and role. 

Medical Assessment

If you have been referred for a medical assessment, you will be sent to a medical professional to check your condition. 

While assessments are usually face to face with a medical professional, in some cases consultations occur over the telephone or in more recent years, via video calls. 

The Occupational health department will send across a date and time of the planned call to you as well as your manager or employer. The assessment will take around 30 minutes or so 

Your consent is required for the consultation to proceed, if you do not want to give consent, inform your manager immediately and beforehand. 

Some of the issues that are discussed during the consultation includes information related to your condition include:

  • Your medical history
  • How it impacts your work
  • History of absences
  • Pharmacological and other interventions and treatments you are under
  • Changes in situation
  • Fitness to work
  • Impairments if any
  • Present state of medical condition 

The Occupational health assessment report

Following the consultation, a report is made that is written by the OH practitioner.

The employees have a right to see the report before anyone else and requires their consent to be sent across to their manager or employer.

Usually the employee will  be given a few days to see the report and at this time, the employee can ask for facts to be corrected.

While the OH specialist needs to change information if the employee disagrees with it and there is no factual evidence,the report should mention any differences of opinion.

The report will usually mention the condition, medical situation, and answer any questions that have been specifically brought up. 

The report is then sent to the manager as well as to the employee, HR representative and, in some cases, the employee’s GP.

Accommodations and adjustments

Once the manager has received the report, they will review it and take any recommended action for the wellbeing of the employee such as- leave, accommodations and adjustments.

The report should include recommendations and suggest potential adjustments that could  help resolve the situation completely.

What is an occupational health referral?

The occupational health referral is a process that is designed to provide advice to both employees and employers for concerns that relate to the employee’s health and their ability to do their job.

The process involves consent between employee and employer with a contractual agreement for the employee to provide such consent and to partake in a medical examination process.

In a situation where there is no contractual agreement, the employee must be made to understand that the lack of agreement may impact the employer’s ability to make a fully informed decision about the position.

Lack of consent will not stall the process, and a decision will be made based on available information which might not give the full picture of the employee’s situation. 

Thus it must be understood by the employee that this process of referral and examination is only designed to help them and is in their interest as well as information related to what the referral process will involve.

According to HRZone, referrals are made with the objective of:

  • obtaining information when an employee is on long-term sickness; usually information related to prognosis.
  • finding out if the employee’s is suffering from an underlying health condition which may be causing short-term intermittent sickness that can impact employee’s work 
  • establishing whether or not the employee is fit to attend a disciplinary or performance hearing

Some of the common reasons when a manager refers an employee to Occupational health include:

  • Situations where an employee has been absent from work on a number of occasions in recent weeks/months 
  • Situations where an employee is absent on a long-term basis that has been over a month.
  • Situations where particular patterns have been identified in an employee’s absence 
  • Situations where a potential health problem has been identified and how it impacts the employee’s ability to work.
  • Situation where an Occupational Health assessment is required for employee’s return
  • to work

What is occupational health?

Occupational health is one area of the public health domain that is concerned with the physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations.

This area of public health involves promoting, advocating, and maintaining the highest degree of well-being for workers in the workplace across various occupations. 

The main role of occupational health within the workforce is to support management of health issues of employees within the workplace and are concerned with how their occupation impacts the health of the employee. 

It is important to mention that occupational health, while they are concerned about how the work or the workplace might impact on the employee, it is also focused on how the employees’ health may impact on their performance at work. 

Occupational health within the workplace provides support to employees by interpreting medical information of employees in the case that they are unwell and to present it to Managers in a way that allows for employee advocacy as well as makes rooms for accommodations to support the employee in the workplace.

The support they provide includes providing advice to both the managers and supervisors as well as the employees in areas related to:

  • How the medical condition impacts an employee’s ability to work and perform well on the job as well as the impact it has on their ability to carry out their responsibilities. 
  • Workplace adjustments and accommodations for the employees well being such as reducing work hours or workload. 
  • Time scales for the return of employees to work in the case they wish to take a medical leave of absence. 
  • Advice and referrals to Counselling and Psychological Services or any medical services. 
  • Providing employees with information related to employees fitness to return to work and  remain at their present role.

Occupational health specialists are the professionals that employees often reach out for guidance on the issues mentioned above.

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed what you can expect if your work is sending you to occupational health.

References

Booth.S. Top tips to get the best from your occupational health provider. HRZone. Retrieved on 24th March 2022. https://www.hrzone.com/engage/employees/top-tips-to-get-the-best-from-your-occupational-health-provider

Six best-practice tips on how to make an occupational health referral. Fusion Occupational Health. Retrieved on 24th March 2022. https://www.fusionoh.com/blog/how-to-make-occupational-health-referral

Occupational Health Referrals. Guide. University of Glasgow. Retrieved on 24th March 2022. https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_554573_smxx.pdf

Questions to ask when you are submitting an Occupational Health Referral. FusionHR. Retrieved on 24th March 2022. https://www.fusionbusiness.org.uk/occupationalhealthreferral/

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