Occupational Health FAQs

What can I expect from an Occupational Health assessment?

An assessment is a consultation with a specially trained nurse or doctor.  Assessments take place face to face or by phone. They will ask you some questions about your medical history, difficulties at work and at home (function) and any other factors that may affect your workability.

The assessment is confidential and your records are held by the Occupational Health Service, not the employer.

A report is sent to your employer following the assessment, outlining your fitness for work, the requirement for adjustments or adaptations for your employer to consider, to help you at work, and answers to any other questions the employer may have asked.

You will automatically receive a copy of the report, but you are entitled to see and comment upon the report before it sent, should you wish to do so.

Is an OH Assessment independent?

The assessment is invariably paid for by the employer and is geared to offering the employer appropriate advice and addressing any specific Management concerns raised at the referral stage. However the OH practitioner will conduct the referral and produce a report in a totally objective manner.  

The approach is based on four common, basic principles:

  • respect for autonomy (patient choice);
  • beneficence (patient advocacy);
  • non-maleficence (do no harm); and
  • justice

It offers a common, basic moral analytical framework and a common, basic moral language. Although they do not provide ordered rules, these principles can help doctors and other health care workers to make decisions when reflecting on moral issues that arise at work.

Is the report independent and objective?

The qualified Occupational Health (OH) practitioner (either Nurse, Physiotherapist or Doctor) will conduct the assessment and produce the report in an objective and neutral manner. It is essential to have the full background details of the issue as it presents at work provided beforehand via the Management Referral form.

The report will contain relevant functional information about the condition, observations during the consultation/examination and the clinical history and occupational experience presented by your employee.

It is therefore important at the initial referral stage for the employer to explain their concerns to both the employee and the Occupational Health professional.

Does the OH practitioner have access to any medical records?

The OH practitioner only has access to what is available and provided at the referral stage or anything the subject may take along to the consultation.  If further information is considered to be necessary to the decision making, a consent procedure will be explained to request Access to medical records or reports.  There is a set procedure to gain access to them which includes getting written consent from the employee. Additional time and cost would be incurred.

Are OH recommendations binding?

Recommendations are not binding and are simply recommendations. It is for the employer to assess whether the recommendations are practical and reasonable to implement for their organisation and circumstances. However the advice is given by an expert medical professional and an employer is encouraged to give them serious consideration.

Is the Doctor’s opinion on whether the Equality Act provisions on disability binding?

The OH Physician is a medical expert who will give their view on whether the Equality Act provisions will apply. However it is a legal decision (and not a medical decision) made in a tribunal or higher court whether the Disability provisions of the Act apply or not. Legal decision would almost certainly have considered any medical opinions offered and therefore the Doctors opinion should count.

What will an assessment confirm?

The OH practitioner will assess the employee’s health and function and advise the employer of information that is helpful to enable them to manage and support the employee.  

The OH practitioner will provide health information and advice, to help the employee to understand their condition(s) and make informed treatment or health improvement decisions. In most cases, this helps to improve the employee’s workability.

The assessment is not a capability or disciplinary procedure, although the report may inform the management of the employee within these procedures.

Will an assessment give us a diagnosis?

Many illnesses can take weeks or even months, a battery of tests and require specialist consultants to be officially diagnosed.  An Occupational Health Assessment is simply not meant for this purpose; its primary aim is to educate and inform the employee and managment about the situation and steps that can be taken to improve workability.

Does an Employee have to attend?

No, you are offering your employee the opportunity of an OH assessment to explore the relationship between their health condition(s) and their work. It is therefore essential to fully explain to and engage your employee in why you wish to go down this route and what you want to achieve by doing so.  

If your employee refuses to attend, you should seek specialist legal advice on next steps and how to manage the situation in the absence of medical opinion.

How does OH differ from a GP report?

OH is a medical speciality in the same way that orthopaedics and rheumatology are specialities.  The GP will have information about the specific health condition with which your employee presented at their appointment and their medical history, and the functional effects of their condition(s).  They do not routinely have specialist information or knowledge about the workplace, ergonomics (the science behind the relationship between health and work), nor the same amount of time during an appointment to undertake a holistic assessment of function.    

What can we do if an employee refuses to attend an OH Assessment?

We would recommend that you try your best to explain the reasons and benefits for your employee to attend. Thereafter you need to explain clearly that any management decisions you will be making will therefore have to be made without expert medical advice.

Where else can I find information about the legal position when managing attendance or performance?

Your organisation’s legal and HR teams are the best source of information, but government and professional information is also available from the following:

Are you concerned about litigation?  

  • Civil – alleged nask an expertegligence, work-related illness
  • Compliance with disability related requirements of the Equality Act 2010
  • Criminal (Health & Safety legislation and codes of practice).

What if an employee gets ill?

Your employee benefits programme for long term ill health needs to be appropriately managed.  Workability Solutions™ is here to help you significantly reduce the risks and and help employees’ workability, whilst reducing costs associated with ill health.