What is an Occupational Health Assessment?
An Occupational Health Assessment (also known as a sickness absence referral, management referral or occupational health referral) is a medical examination carried out by a qualified Occupational Health clinician to assess a person’s fitness for work and their capability to fulfil the duties and responsibilities of their role safely and without detriment to their health.
What is the purpose of an Occupational Health assessment?
Employers will usually request an Occupational Health Assessment when they require advice to help them manage an employee’s medical condition or disability or their return to work following a period of sickness absence. They may also refer an employee for an assessment if they have concerns that their health may be affecting their attendance or performance.
Occupational Health clinicians specialise in the interrelationship between work and health and have expert knowledge of both the specific health risks and hazards associated with different job roles and industries and of the various laws and standards that govern health and safety in the workplace. They can therefore provide employers with the objective, solution-focused advice and guidance they need to be able to:
- support employees back to work as swiftly and safely as possible after absence due to ill health or injury
- introduce appropriate adjustments and support to enable employees to better manage any health conditions or disabilities, so that they can remain in work and continue performing their role effectively
- reduce the risk of future sickness absence and any adverse effects of work on employees’ health
- avoid any management action that may leave them in breach of employment or equality legislation.
What happens at an Occupational Health Assessment?
Occupational Health assessments can take place either face to face or remotely via a telephone or video consultation. The type of appointment you have will depend on a number of factors, but both offer an effective medium for conducting assessments, and both will follow the same format, usually lasting around 30 to 45 minutes.
In advance of the assessment, the clinician will have been provided with a referral form from your employer providing details of:
- the reason for the referral, including any background information about your medical condition or diagnosis, how it is affecting you, both generally and at work, and any treatment or rehabilitation you are receiving
- any information provided by your GP or other treating healthcare professional on your fit note
- any action they have taken so far (for example, introducing additional support or adjustments to your duties or hours) and how successful these have been
- any alternative duties or adjustments they are able to offer or accommodate
- any specific questions they wish the clinician to answer.
Occupational Health assessments rarely involve any form of physical examination. Instead, during the appointment the clinician will take a detailed medical, social and occupational history and discuss with you the information your employer has provided. They will also ask you specific questions to help them understand your perspective of your present situation and how your health is affecting you; your current functional capabilities; and what support you feel you need to help you get back to work sooner (if you are absent) or continue doing your role. At the end of the consultation, the clinician will talk you through the advice and recommendations they intend to include in their report. You will also be asked to confirm that you consent to their report being released to your employer (and may be requested to complete a written consent form).
What happens after the Occupational Health Assessment?
After the assessment, the clinician will produce a report to your employer summarising what was discussed during your consultation and providing advice and recommendations on:
- whether or not you are fit to return to work and continue in your role (and if you are not yet fit, why that is the case and when they expect that you are likely to be able to return)
- whether a phased return is necessary and how to approach it
- any workplace adjustments that are required (e.g. to your hours, shift patterns or duties), either on a temporary or permanent basis, or any additional support they could provide to help you return to work sooner
- any action either they or you can take to aid your recovery and reduce any risk of future sickness absence (e.g. compliance with treatment, making lifestyle changes, maintaining open dialogue with your line manager and scheduling regular catch-ups to troubleshoot issues at work that may be impacting on your health)
- whether you are likely to be covered under the provisions of the Equality Act
- whether any further guidance is required from your treating doctor or specialist.
What are the benefits of an Occupational Health Assessment?
It’s important to remember that Occupational Health assessments are a supportive process. The aim is always to help move forward the situation that has prompted the referral by identifying a solution that is not only commercially viable for your employer but also ensures both they and you feel supported to manage your health effectively at work, so you can continue making a valuable contribution in the workplace.
You can learn more about Medigold Health’s management referral service here.
Are there any other types of Occupational Health Assessment?
Sometimes, if an employee is starting a new job or working in a certain type of role, they may require either a pre-placement assessment or ongoing health checks/ periodic medicals to ensure they are medically fit to carry out their duties safely, especially if they are returning to work after absence due to ill health. For more information about the other types of health assessment we offer, follow the links below:
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