What not to say to occupational health assessment

In this blog post, we discuss what the occupational health assessment’s purpose is, and what not to say to an occupational health assessment.

What are occupational health assessments?

An Occupational Health Assessment is a medical examination of an employee by an occupational health professional (either a doctor or a nurse). 

Many employees are afraid of this medical examination, but what they do not know is that every employer must comply with the law and ensure the safety of its workers.

Therefore, the purpose of the Occupational Health Assessment is to check the physical and mental health of an employee, not to cause him problems, but on the contrary, to check if the environment in which he works does not affect him.

After this medical examination, the occupational health professional will make recommendations to the employer if certain measures need to be taken to increase job security.

The overall goal is to avoid any work-related injuries.

Why do you have to go to occupational health assessments?

As mentioned above, the overall goal of occupational health assessments is to avoid any work-related injuries.

The reasons why your employer may refer you to an occupational health professional may vary, depending on your job and your relationship with your employer.

In general, the main reason seems to be the lack of communication between managers – subordinates.

Thus, the employer “knows” you only based on your performance. And sometimes, for one reason or another, your performance may decline. 

Below,  you will see what are the 8 steps in the process of occupational health assessments:

#1. You talk to your colleagues (or they just notice) that you have health problems.

These may include frequent headaches, dizziness, paleness or changes in body weight, constant lack of energy, etc.

#2. Your supervisor/manager becomes worried about your physical and/or mental health.

Therefore, it becomes concerned about your performance or safety at work.

#3. The Supervisor/Manager will arrange a meeting and talk to you about his or her health/performance concerns.

#4. If the conversation shows that the decrease in performance is due to a medical problem, the manager will ask you what you are doing about these problems.

#5. Together with the manager, you will fill in a referral form to discuss with an occupational health professional about your physical and mental health.

# 6. The occupational health professional will receive your form and will contact you for an appointment.

It sometimes happens that employees refuse to go to this appointment. It is your right to refuse, but you should know that there will be repercussions.

# 7. If you still go to the appointment with an occupational health professional, there you will be assessed as at any regular doctor’s consultation.

The consultation and everything you discuss remains confidential.

# 8. After the consultation, the occupational health professional will send the manager some recommendations regarding what should be implemented or what should be considered in order to establish a safer, more productive work environment.

Who do you have to see? 

If you do decide to go for an occupational health assessment, you will be examined by either a doctor or a nurse. These are well-trained people with a medical degree.

They are not there to look for reasons to fire you but to try to help you feel better and safer at work.

– The occupational health professional will examine your physical condition, and together you will try to determine what is good at work and what can be improved.

For example, you may come to the conclusion that it is very good for you to work, but if you reduce the volume of your tasks, you may be more productive.

– If your physical health requires a break from work, then the occupational health professional will be the person who will recommend to your manager how to ease you back in gently when you are ready to work again.

– Sometimes, being so caught up in their daily routine (or because of fear) many employees do not go to their doctor even if they have symptoms of chronic fatigue, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or even something more serious.

Precisely for this reason, an occupational health assessment can save your life.

What not to say to occupational health assessments?

It is understandable that many employees are reluctant to go to an occupational health assessment.

The fear of losing their job is so great for some employees that their health problems and general wellbeing seem to lose importance.

But the truth is that the chances of losing your job after this medical consultation are quite small (unless we are talking about cases of very serious, unrecoverable physical illness).

In most cases, the outcome of occupational health assessments is changes in the schedule, less workload, better working conditions.

You need to understand that your employer must follow certain safety rules at work, and if you are not feeling physically/mentally well, it means that something is wrong, and his goal is to find out if something is wrong with the company and the way you work (not necessarily with you).

What not to say to occupational health assessments – 5 tips

  • Do not imply that you feel perfect and you are not affected by anything if you can clearly see that you do not feel well. It doesn’t make sense to lie, because first of all, it only hurts you, and secondly, you will just look foolish. Accept to be assessed and listen to the doctor’s opinion.
  • Don’t lie about your stress levels. If you are constantly pressured by deadlines, you don’t sleep properly, you don’t eat enough, you can’t relax – you are likely to suffer from burnout. Do not minimize your symptoms.
  • Again, don’t ignore the symptoms. Any headache, back pain, lack of energy can be responsible for reducing your work performance. If you are there getting a medical exam, at least take advantage of it, just to be sure that there is nothing wrong with you physically.
  • Do not ignore health problems such as severe anxiety, panic attacks, symptoms of depression, symptoms of burn out, exhaustion. Apparently, all this has nothing to do with work, but in reality, they have a huge impact.
  • Do not tell the occupational health professional that he is not a real doctor and that you will go to your doctor after this consultation for a confirmation. I don’t think I need to explain this.

Who has the Final Say?

Your manager has the final say.

The occupational health professional only comes with some recommendations, but only a manager can make a decision about what needs to be done next.

According to the recommendations, the manager can:

– Be in full agreement with the recommendations of occupational health professionals and act immediately.

– The manager may accept some recommendations, or adjust them depending on other factors (for example he may have to hire someone temporarily, which can take up to several months)

– The manager may completely refuse to follow the recommendations of the occupational health professional.

In each of the three cases, the manager will talk to you and will have to explain his decision to you. 

You must understand that he is not obliged to follow the advice of the occupational health professional, but only the law.

Therefore, if you are dissatisfied with the outcomes of your occupational health assessment, you should know that you can always ask for legal help.

But until then, I advise you to talk to your employer and work out what’s best for both of you.

Occupational Health Assessment Questions for Depression

Some occupational health assessment questions for depression may be as follows:

  • Do you have trouble doing things?
  • Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning?
  • Do you feel depressed, down or hopeless?
  • Do you have Trouble falling or staying asleep?
  • Do you feel like you are sleeping too much?
  • Do you feel tired all the time or have little energy?
  • Do you have poor appetite or are you overeating?
  • Do you feel bad about yourself or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down?
  • Do you have trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television?
  • Do you have trouble moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? 
  • Have you felt recently that you are so fidgety or restless that you have been moving a lot more than usual?
  • Do you ever have thoughts that you would be better off dead, or thoughts of hurting yourself in some way?

These are questions from the patient health questionnaire (PHQ 9), which is a commonly used screening tool used for the screening of depression, and it is therefore full of questions occupational health might ask for depression.

Occupational health questions for depression may also involve questions regarding your mood in the last 2 weeks, your daily functioning at home as well as at work and other details of your thoughts and feelings.

What Power Does Occupational Health Have?

According to the UK worker laws, occupational Health has the following powers:

  • Providing fit notes
  • Doing pre-employment assessments to check if the employee is capable of doing the job
  • Physical assessment to check if there are any problems in the employee’s physical health owing to the job.
  • Determining if the employee is experiencing any problems in the workplace
  • Checking if the employee is ready to come back to work
  • Checking to see what changes in the workplace the employee may need after they have been back from long term sick leave
  • Assessing the employee’s mental health to check if the job is affecting them adversely.

Contrary to what many people think and are afraid of, occupational health does not have the power to fire employees or to even suggest that they be fired, and that power rests solely with the employer.

In fact, occupational health does not have any power to compel the employer to do anything at all, and it can merely report to them about the prescribed or possible course of action, which means that it cannot tell the employer to do anything with an employee no matter what they learn in the interview.

Furthermore, occupational health also does not have the power to unilaterally deem the employee unfit in any way unless there is substantial proof, and it does not have the power to compel the employee to see them.

Occupational Health Report Employee Rights

Here are some of the most important employee rights about Occupational health reports:

  • The employee must give consent to sharing of the report.
  • The employee must be informed of the contents of the report
  • The employee can correct any inaccurate information.
  • The employee can withdraw consent for the sharing of the report.

While these are the most basic rights an employee has regarding occupational health reports, another important employee right is that they can demand to see the occupational health report as early as 21 days after it being written and up to 6 months after the publication of the report.

As mentioned in the above points, an important occupational health report employee right is that they can ask for inaccurate information to be changed, and an extension of this employee right is that if the doctor does not agree to amend the report as the individual requests, the individual can ask for a written statement to be added to the report stating their view of the report.

In addition to the Occupational health report employee rights, there are some responsibilities too, and that is, when making a request for a report from an individual’s GP, you must comply with the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 as above.

Occupational Health Telephone Assessment Questions

Occupational health telephone assessment questions may be of the following type:

  • Do you feel tired or fatigued a lot?
  • How do you feel when you wake up?
  • What makes you more comfortable with your situation at work?
  • What, if any, special provisions might you need to work better with your medical condition?

Occupational health telephone assessment questions may vary from situation to situation and across conditions, and one might find that different conditions might warrant different questions, which means that in most cases occupational health questions in any variant of Occupational health interview will almost certainly depend upon the condition.

Occupational health telephone assessment questions will also be slightly focused on building rapport, as these interviews usually happen in person and if they happen on the phone it may require additional effort on the part of the Occupational health worker.

In most cases, occupational health telephone assessment questions are likely to involve both open ended as well as closed ended questions, so as to get a better idea of the employee’s condition.

Occupational Health: “Not Fit for Work”

When Occupational health designates someone “Not Fit for Work”, it means that the Occupational health inspector has deemed the employee as being in a condition where they will not be able to complete or carry out their work duties appropriately.

Occupational health saying someone is Not fit for work implies that the employee either needs to have some time off or they need a change in the work environment in some way, because they may not be in a condition where their physical health is in accordance with their work situations.

Furthermore, Occupational health “Not fit for work” may also be considered the opposite of a fit note, which is a note that is provided by Occupational health when the employee is well enough to resume work and their physical and mental condition is better than it was originally.

Occupational health can also overturn the not fit for work designation when the employee has gotten better and their physical or mental health is no longer problematic, and they can carry out all their responsibilities at work in a normal, healthy and harmless way.

Work Sending Me to Occupational Health

If your work is sending you to occupational health it may be because of following reasons:

  • To assess your mental or physical condition 
  • To know whether you are fit to work
  • To ascertain workplace changes to accommodate a health condition
  • To help find ways to ease employee transition after sick leave
  • To maximise good health in the workplace

When your work is sending you to occupational health, it does not mean you absolutely have to go, and you might be within your rights to refuse as well.

When someone’s work decides to send them to occupational health and they refuse, they will usually not get penalized, however, you should know that because this is a possibility some employers may include clauses in contracts that compel the employees to visit the Occupational health professional, so check before you refuse to see occupational health.

When there is a clause that outlines that the employee needs to see occupational health when the work sends them to occupational health, it could be a situation where they need written reports about the employee’s health and functioning, and in these cases, if you refuse to see occupational health, you may get into trouble.

According to the laws related to occupational health, in cases where the employee is meant to follow rules when work sends them to occupational health and this is mandated by the contract, any failure to comply with a reasonable instruction would be a disciplinary matter which may involve a process that ends in dismissal as well. 

Employee Rights Occupational Health

Here are the employee rights related to occupational health:

“When you seek the advice of an occupational health clinician, you’re required to submit a management referral. Before you make the referral, however, you first need the employee’s permission.

Best practice is to have an employee’s signed consent. In order to get the advice you need, you may have to divulge information the employee may not want other parties to know, even if those other parties are bound to medical confidentiality. You should have their consent to do so.

The employee should be told about all aspects of the referral, including information you as a manager may think is confidential. The reason for full disclosure is that an occupational health referral is considered the employee’s medical information; the employee has a right to see it at any time.

Sharing sensitive information with occupational health can be important for the manager making a referral. 

Managers need to be aware that the employee has a right to view this information (pertaining to their case that they want to share with the occupational health worker) and can request copies of communications regarding their referral.

The occupational health clinician must show the referral to the employee should they ask and may share it with them at the beginning of an appointment to ensure the employee understands their reasons for being referred and what advice their employer requires. They don’t do this to be difficult. The law requires them to do so. It would be counterproductive if at this point the employee saw something they weren’t aware of when they gave their initial consent.

There have been cases where the employee said they didn’t know what questions were in the referral, nor the information that would be shared. Some referrals have contained privy management discussions and internal reports – the manager didn’t realize the employee has a right to see this if it’s in the referral, which caused difficulty and distrust.”

An experienced occupational health provider should let you know if they receive a referral with sensitive information, ensuring you are aware of the employees right to view it. Best practice is to ensure you are not sharing information you would rather keep confidential.”

These employee rights related to occupational health, as well as other information regarding occupational health can be found on Collingwoodhealth.

Disagree with Occupational Health Report

If you disagree with occupational health report, you are not helpless, there are still things you can do, but for this you need to figure out what your concern about the report is and what avenues of change you can pursue, because you will need to mention these to the occupational health report writer.

If you are disagreeing with the occupational health report because the information in it is incorrect, you can let the writer of the report know so that they may be able to amend the report accordingly, and to do so you may need to provide proof of why that information is incorrect as well.

If you are disagreeing with the occupational health report because you feel that there is information in it that might change your employer’s attitude towards you in some way or may make them view you differently, you should know that the report writer may not be able to remove it if it is pertinent, but they may be able to amend it in a way that removes any possible stigma or different view of you.

Lastly, if you disagree with the occupational health report and decide to withdraw consent for the sharing of the report, you should know that there may be adverse consequences to that in the form of absence of any leeway when negotiating with the employer or a reduction in benefits you might get for your condition.

Conclusions

In this blog post, we discussed what the occupational health assessment’s purpose is, and what not to say to an occupational health assessment.

You found out that the occupational health professional will make recommendations to your employer if certain measures need to be taken to increase job security or to improve your performance.

Also, the overall goal is to avoid any work-related injuries and that you should not be afraid to attend an occupational health assessment.

Please feel free to ask any questions or to leave a comment on the content. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQ on What not to say to occupational health

Can occupational health stop me working?

Occupational health cannot stop you from working. What occupational health professionals can do if they find you are not fit for work is to give the appropriate recommendations to your employer.

Your employer may or may not take into consideration the occupational health professional’s advice.  

What questions should I ask my occupational health?

Some of the questions that you should ask your occupational health professional are:

– What symptoms do I have and what do they mean?

– If I have to take a leave of absence, when can I return to work safely?

– Will I be returning to work full-time or under special conditions?

– What can I do to improve my focus/performance/health?

What is involved in occupational health assessment?

An Occupational Health Assessment is a medical examination of an employee by an occupational health professional (either a doctor or a nurse).

After this medical examination, the occupational health professional will make recommendations to the employer if certain measures need to be taken to increase job security.

Does occupational health have access to your medical records?

Occupational health does not have access to your medical records unless you gave written consent for your medical history to be transferred.

Do employers have to follow occupational health recommendations?

Your employer may or may not follow the occupational health professional’s recommendations.

The employer will talk to you and will have to explain his decision to you. 

You must understand that he is not obliged to follow the advice of the occupational health professional, but only the law. 

Why do employers use occupational health?

Employers use occupational health to find out if its employees are in a safe, stable, productive environment.

Every employer is required by law to provide a safe environment for its employees.

Another goal is to understand what can be improved in the work process.

References

Jib.org.uk – What are Occupational Health Assessments?

Workingwellsolutions.com – Fear of OH

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