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The occupational health referral process is designed to provide advice and support to employees. But it will also do the same for their managers, when agreed.
It’s a referral to an occupational health professional when there’re concerns that relate to the employee’s health and their ability to do their job.
Conducted by an external healthcare professional, it helps determine any issues the employee faces.
It also suggests modifications that can be made to make their return to work easier and faster.
Once you and your employee are in agreement, you’ll need to contact an occupational health (OH) expert with a referral form.
To help them understand the nature of the employee’s role and how the condition is affecting their ability to work, you should make sure the referral includes enough details about the employee, their work and their health condition. These allow the OH expert to carry out an informed assessment.
Once they’ve received the form, they’ll contact the staff member to schedule an appointment at a time that’s suitable for all parties involved.
Most issues you notice with an employee can be fixed by talking to them. A medical opinion isn’t always necessary.
But in cases of long-term absence, noticeable performance loss due to health, or illness caused by work, you should consider filling out and sending an occupational health referral letter.
When your employee is assessed by a professional, they’ll put together comments and suggested modifications to the working environment that’ll mean your employee can return to work.
There are some occupational health referral employee rights in place. These mean that:
It’s a good idea to be open and communicate during every step of the process.
Sending an occupational health referral letter to an employee may feel daunting, but it’s best to let them know what’s happening and what to expect.
Remember, OH isn’t there to punish people for ill-health. It’s designed to make their lives better.
These referrals are designed to help and not to hinder. It’s not a test and nor is it there to catch your staff out. Some consider it a punishment, but this also isn’t the case.
Encourage your employees to speak with you or the HR team about their concerns. It’s important for them to understand that the purpose of a referral is to find out how their health is affected, and how you can make it easier for them.
Some FAQs on this matter are addressed below. If you have a specific query not covered here, you can contact us for further details.
Some employees may be wondering, “what can I expect from a referral?”.
Upon arrival, they’ll see a doctor or nurse, who’ll ask questions to get a full picture of their health. Assessments can also be carried out via telephone.
This is to help your staff return to work—the assessor will use the answers as a basis of recommendations for changes you can make to the work process.
Nobody other than you, your employee and the assessor will see any of the information gathered, without the employee’s express written consent.
The healthcare professional will prepare a report based on their answers. This will include an overview of the employee’s health and fitness to carry out duties. It’ll also include details of any changes that could be made to hasten their return to work.
For example, in the case of an occupational health referral for work-related stress, these changes could include reasonable adjustments to lower workload, reduce hours or the opportunity for remote working, depending on their symptoms.
This all sounds rather intense, but remember the purpose of the assessment is to get an understanding of their condition and make suggestions that’ll make work easier. There aren’t any wrong answers, and it’s their opportunity to ask for the adjustments they think will help.
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