Phone: 07795 214 663

Occupational Health Assessment

Aka: “Case Management”, “Management Referral” or “Sickness Absence Referral”

Occupational Health Assessment

1. Occupational Health Assessment.  Key Features.

EFFECTIVE

Work Wellness helps prevent scenarios where a trail of GP fit notes with no strategy for resolution, concludes with the worst possible outcomes for everyone concerned; continued low performance, absence management costs and loss of wages.

COMPLIANT

Each unique and often complex assessment is managed through consistent and repeatable steps to help ensure compliance with legislation, medical codes of conduct and your company’s policies.

ACCESSIBLE

You initiate the process by completing our standard Referral Form.  We conduct the assessment either remotely or physically present.

EXPERT

Diligently conducted by experienced and qualified Occupational Health Specialist Practitioners.

2. Occupational Health Assessment. Step by Step Guide.

Click on a step below to view more detail.

Refer your employee for an occupational health assessment by Work Wellness where:

  • New Starter Pre-Placement Health Screening has identified a health condition likely to require job adjustments.
  • You have a GP fit note declaring your employee unfit to work or recommending a phased return to work but with no medical guidance on adjustments and timescales.
  • You have an employee with attendance or performance issues which may be related to an underlying health condition.
  • Your employee is returning to work after a long-term absence and you need guidance on fitness for work and reasonable adjustments.
  • You or your employee have a concern that the work, environment or equipment may be placing them at risk of ill-health.
  • You need an independent assessment of whether your employee is fit to attend an internal procedural meeting.

Refer for an occupational health assessment within 4 weeks of; commencement of absence or of becoming aware that a performance issue might be health related, or of onset of concerns about the health of your employee1  This enables a process of support and advice to be initiated to prevent your employee from becoming detached from work and the case drifting further away from the best possible conclusion.

If you have any questions then contact Work Wellness by completing an Enquiry Form or by phoning us on 07795 214 663.  Without obligation, we can help:

  • Test your reasons for considering an occupational health assessment and the likely value you will receive.
  • Understand your intentions towards your employee and gain an insight into your workplace, your culture, the nature of your employee’s work and any health and safety risks to help ensure the assessment report is as actionable as possible.
  • Advise whether the occupational health assessment needs to be conducted physically present rather than remotely via video conference or telephone. 
  • Advise whether the occupational health assessment should be conducted by an occupational health physician in those rare cases where:
    • You are in possession of a GP fit note or report and require a second opinion, possibly requiring examination or
    • A legal process is likely or underway or 
    • Assessment is required for ill-health retirement under an occupational pension scheme.

To initiate the referral, we provide you with 3 documents, each carefully designed to make the referral as straightforward as possible:

1. Occupational Health Assessment Referral Form.

For you to complete and return to us.  The referral form includes an assessment question checklist from which you can tick the questions you would like Work Wellness to answer.  You also have the opportunity to pose additional questions.

2. Occupational Health Assessment Employee Guide.

For you to give to your employee.  Whilst written primarily for the benefit of your employee, the guide will also be a useful resource for you to draw upon to explain the process to your employee when obtaining their consent to the referral.

3. Occupational Health Assessment Employee Consent Form.

For you to ask your employee to sign and then return to us together with the completed Referral Form.  When obtaining your employee’s consent to the referral you should:

  • Explain the reason for referral and the process, for example:
    • “I have recently become concerned about your performance at work. And I want to refer you to an Occupational Health Specialist so they can explore whether or not you might have some illness that could be the cause of this and, if so, what can be done about it.”
    • “We are aware that you have a health problem, and we want to make sure we are providing sufficient support for you.”
    • “Your absence level is higher than average and we would like an Occupational Health Specialist to advise on whether or not anything more can be done to help your health.”
  • Allow your employee to see the completed Occupational Health Assessment Referral Form.

Now that all relevant information is presented on the Occupational Health Assessment Referral Form, we will pause briefly to:

  • Assess whether we can add value to the case.  In a very small minority of cases, typically with ‘late referrals’ where you have been actively managing the case for months, there may be a risk that we will not identify / recommend any adjustments or assistance over and above what you have already implemented.  In such cases we would explain our reasoning to you and let you decide whether to proceed with the assessment.  You may still decide to proceed for example, because we provide independent medical confirmation, having followed occupational health “best practice” processes, of your management of the case.
  • Re-confirm whether the assessment can be conducted remotely or physically present.

Arranging the appointment:

  • You may choose to arrange the assessment appointment between ourselves and your employee to retain overall control over the process (e.g., to minimise the risk of ’employee did not attend’) or just for the first one or two referrals until you are comfortable with the process.  In which case we will offer you 3 candidate appointment slots to agree with your employee and issue the invite.
  • Alternatively we can arrange the appointment directly with your employee.

During the occupational health assessment we will seek to elicit accurate disclosure of relevant information from your employee by:

  • Building trust and rapport, establishing a safe space, where your employee can disclose the facts of their health condition and treatment and discuss how it affects their work and attendance.
  • Listening without judgement.  Acknowledging your employee’s feelings whilst being impartial and objective.
  • Reading the tone and body language as well as the words, listening for their spoken and unspoken reasons for attendance or performance which might include work, lifestyle and family related issues.
  • Asking progressively more closed questions where we believe it is necessary to establish the facts. 

Where appropriate we may:

  • Explore what your employee is already doing to alleviate their symptoms and improve their health.  Where appropriate we might recommend what more they could do.
  • Discuss with your employee whether they are accessing the health care they need.

We will make an informed assessment based upon the information we have gathered up to this point.  Health issues can affect different employees in different ways, a medical condition can completely defeat one person resulting in long-term absence, whilst another might try and work through it resulting in presenteeism, errors and safety issues.  Our occupational health assessment will consider the state of mind of your employee as much as their state of health.

After the occupational health assessment you will receive a report containing:

  • Answers to the questions which you ticked on the Occupational Health Assessment Referral Form.
  • The practitioner’s assessment of:
    • The degree to which any health conditions affect your employee’s capability to perform in their job .
    • Risks to their mental or physical health arising from the job they do, the equipment they use and their working environment.
  • The practitioner’s recommendations for:
    • Adjustments; to the job they do, the equipment they use, their working environment or to processes and procedures.
    • Other forms of support and treatment to aid your employee’s rehabilitation such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.
    • The timing and pace of a phased return to work where your employee is sickness absent.
    • A follow-up review, e.g., towards the end of the planned phased return to work period.

The report will more than likely contain sensitive information so we follow General Medical Council guidelines to ensure confidentiality.  Further details of these guidelines can be found on the Occupational Health Standards page in the section entitled “Data Protection”. 

The report should be a valuable source of information to help you decide how to manage your employee, their performance and the risks to their health and safety.  It might form the basis of an action plan agreed between you and your employee.  See the Occupational Health Standards page for advice on “What Adjustments are Reasonable”.   Having followed this advice you will need to decide whether your employee is:

  • Likely to be able to perform in their job with reasonable adjustments.
  • Performing in their job after having implemented and reviewed the effectiveness of the action plan.

If the answer is yes then the process has been valuable for all parties.  If the answer is no, then legal advice may conclude that you have legitimate grounds for dismissal based upon capability.

The occupational health assessment report will include a recommendation for a follow-up review when it also includes any of the following recommendations:

  • That a medical report is requested from your employee’s GP or treating specialist.  We will request the follow-up appointment after we have received the report.
  • That your employee should be referred to a specialist to investigate / examine a relevant health issue.   We will request the follow-up appointment after we have received the results of the investigation.
  • A period of temporary adjustments or a phased return to work.  We will recommend that the follow-up appointment is arranged towards the end of the adjustment period.  The purpose of this review is to:
    • Confirm the effectiveness of the adjustments and sign-off your employee to return back to normal duties.
    • Recommend more permanent adjustments to enable your employee to perform over the long-term.

Whether to accept a recommendation and proceed with a review is your decision.

We operate a process of formally closing each case and archiving all relevant documentation.  There are a number of good reasons for doing this, including:

  • Compliance with data retention regulations.
  • Whether and when occupational health involvement in a case has ended can be pertinent for employment tribunals.

The case close date is set as the later of:

  • Release date of the report if:
    • No follow-up review recommended.
    • Follow-up review recommended but recommendation not accepted by you.
  • Release date of follow-up review report.

3. Occupational Health Assessment.  Step by Step Average Timeline.

Day -5 Identify referral reason
Step 1: You decide to refer

Refer for an occupational health assessment as soon as you identify a reason.

Day 0 Gather information
Step 2: You make the referral

Allow 5 days to make the referral for an occupational health assessment.  The actual timescale will depend upon how quickly you can:

  • Collate and capture the information necessary to complete the Occupational Health Assessment Referral Form.
  • Obtain your employee's consent to the referral.
Day 7 Arrange appointment
Step 3: Work Wellness conduct the assessment
  • Within 2 working days of referral we will be in contact to arrange the occupational health assessment.  We usually offer 3 appointment slots over the following 10 working days.  Your employee is almost always able to accept one of them.  We can utilise the time prior to the appointment to obtain GP or treating specialist letters / reports from your employee. 
  • We are very flexible:
    • It is not unusual for us to arrange the appointment in advance of the referral.  We just need the Forms at least 1 working day prior to the appointment to give us time to adequately prepare.
    • If your referral is urgent, e.g., your employee suddenly notifies their intention to return to work "on Monday" and you are unsure if they are ready or whether they might require adjustments.  Then we can usually re-arrange our calendar and offer an appointment during the following 3 working days.
Day 10 Write report
Step 4: Work Wellness report back to you
  • We aim to release the report within 3 working days of the assessment. 
  • If your employee requests advance sight of the report then we allow them 2 working days to provide us with consent to release the report to you.  If they have not consented within 2 working days we issue a reminder and allow a further working day.  If we have still not received consent then we escalate to you for resolution.
  • If your employee requests changes to the report then we aim to release the report to you within a further 3 working days.  It is usually sooner but there are instances when changes are only agreed after some discussion.

4. Occupational Health Assessment.  Why Invest.

Restore.  The costs of getting it wrong:

  • The average UK employee takes 4.4 sickness absence days per annum, costing £975 in lost productivity, temp cover and management time.  The cost of presenteeism is estimated at 1.5x the cost of absenteeism.
  • In 2020, a claim of £4.7m was awarded to an employee because their employer, the Royal Bank of Scotland, had not referred them for an occupational health assessment to identify possible job adjustments.

Restore.  The benefits of getting it right:

  • Case studies have found that consistent and early referral for occupational health assessment more than halves sickness absence rates and durations with one company study reporting £760k savings in the first year.
  • A 2016 study found a positive effect amongst 46% of Cardiff City Council employees who were referred for an occupational health assessment which recommended workplace cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Sources:
  1. Workplace health: long-term sickness absence and capability to work.  NICE guideline [NG146].  20 November 2019.[]