What to expect from an occupational health assessment

The purpose of an occupational health referral is for the employer to understand if there is a health condition present that may impact on work, or if there are any work factors that may impact on the employee’s health.  The referral should provide information on the individual’s health condition or symptoms, identify how that condition may impact on their work in the short and long-term, and identify solutions or adjustments to minimise any impact of health on work and vice versa.

A referral is appropriate in the following cases; for frequent short-term absences, long term absences (more than 4 weeks), concerns about an employee’s health at work, concerns about the effect of work on an employee’s health, any stress-related or mental health symptoms or absences, or where a functional assessment or workplace assessment is required to establish fitness to perform specific tasks for their current role.

The occupational health consultation would be either face-to-face, or over the telephone and will be conducted by an occupational health advisor (occupational health nurse) or an occupational health physician (occupational health doctor). The purpose of the consultation is to take a full medical history (including diagnosis, investigations and treatment), to understand how the condition or symptoms affect  normal everyday activities at home and work, and to understand all elements of the job.  In order to get the most from the consultation, it is important that the employee brings all relevant medical details. This includes any diagnosis, a list of any scans or investigations and the results, a list of any treatment , including name and dose of current medication and any copies of relevant letters from the GP or Specialist.

All consultations are strictly confidential,  however, a report will need to be provided to the line manager and/or HR manager. Employees will need to give consent for this report and should be advised on the contents of the report before providing consent. No clinical information (such as diagnosis) can be disclosed without consent. The manager will need to understand how the condition affects functioning at work and hence what the employee is able to do, and not able to do. Employees have the right to withold consent, however, the organisation may not then be aware of the appropriate support that is needed at work.

The occupational health report should include the reason for referral; relevant medical history and response to treatment/interventions; likely timescales for recovery; advice on specialist referrals; likely impact of condition on work in the short and long-term; recommendations and adjustments; likely return to work date; clinical justification for all comments and recommendations; and specific advice on “next steps’ in terms of review. If you would like to discuss whether or not an occupational health assessment is appropriate for your employee, please call us today for further advice.