An Occupational Health referral can take time to complete, but the time and effort you put in is worth it in order to get the best out of the process. Here are our top tips on things to consider:

  1. Make sure you set out the absence patterns
  2. Accurately record the reasons for each absence
  3. Set out how many phased return to work programmes have been put in place, including details of the duration and duties agreed
  4. Confirm what reasonable adjustments have already been made / put in place to support the employee
  5. Concentrate on the role and the impact the absence has on the organisation
  6. Attach the job description and ask whether Occupational Health can recommend any adjustments to the role that the employer could make, in order to enable the employee to return to work sooner / increase his/her attendance
  7. For employees on long-term absence, include whether you would be happy to consider a phased return to work programme and set out how long you could agree this for (i.e. up to 2, 4 or 6 weeks or whatever is acceptable for your organisation).

As well as providing information on the referral form, are you asking the right questions of the physician or nurse?

  • The referral form may have some standard questions for you to tick against but in addition you may need to ask your own questions. An example of an additional question would be; “Mindful of the employee’s history of absence and their medical condition(s), can you state with a high degree of confidence that they will be fit to return to work (carrying out full contractual duties) and sustain their attendance within a period of (a) up to one month; (b) three months; (c) six months [as appropriate]?”
  • For employees who are off work with stress or work-related stress, you should send a stress management risk assessment to them as soon as you receive the GP fit note. You should also then advise Occupational Health on the referral form that you have already done this, to avoid them putting this as a recommendation.
  • If an employee is struggling with depression or anxiety and you want to support them, you should ask Occupational Health if providing counselling support will assist the employee’s recovery and enable them to return to work sooner.
  • Once a report is received, there are often queries relating to the ‘reasonable adjustments’ that have been recommended. Ultimately, it is up to the school to determine whether the recommendations are reasonable or not. Your HR Advisor can talk this through with you to ensure you don’t fall foul should a case progress to an employment tribunal in the future.

We hope this helps you get more out of Occupational Health, but if you need support with any aspect, please speak to one of our team. Our sister company FusionHR can provide Occupational Health support and advice. Just call 01924 827869.

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