The benefits for both employer and employee of using Occupational Health (OH) can be substantial.
Health can both affect a person’s work and be affected by it. Whether this is adversely, such as high levels of absenteeism, stress or occupational illness; or beneficially through increased engagement, performance and wellbeing. The outcome of this can be significantly improved by making use of OH.
What is Occupational Health?
As the NHS states “Occupational health teams keep people well at work – physically and mentally. Occupational health services will help keep your employees healthy and safe whilst in work and manage any risks in the workplace that are likely to give rise to work-related ill health.”
Every year over 170 million days are lost to sickness absence, affecting business. The longer people are off sick, the less likely they are to make a successful return to work. Research also shows that after six months absence from work, there is only a 50% chance of someone making a successful return.
OH focuses on the relationship between work and health, looking at both the patient/employee and the business. It is a specific speciality of medicine, found located within large businesses with responsibility for emergency care and training on site, or independent private clinics
When should you refer an employee?
As a manger you have a duty of care to support your employees and their wellbeing. This means ensuring the people under your supervision are not being made ill by work, or having a possible illness or condition affect their role.
You should considering referring an employee to OH when:
- They have had several episodes of short-term absences
- The employee has had a long term or continuous health related absence
- There is concern that they may have work related health problems or that existing health problems are being intensified by work
- They may have difficulties coping on return after being absent, such as following a serious illness or disability.
- There may be an underlying health factor contributing to performance issues.
Are there any barriers to OH?
As a manager, you may feel uncomfortable referring an employee to OH. There may be budgetary restraints or a lack of knowledge around the employee’s health. You may also feel hesitant to invade their privacy, especially as health and the less recognisable conditions such as those regarding mental health are still seen as taboo topics.
However, the benefits of using Occupational Health to support you and your employee far outweigh any negative reactions. The use of OH improves not only the wellbeing of your employee but also the productivity of the company.
How does it work?
You must inform the employee if and when you believe a referral to OH is necessary. You will need their consent, but the OH service can deal with this. The OH will then arrange a confidential assessment of the employee’s health, wellbeing, suitability for their role and other factors.
You will then be sent a report including the following, depending on circumstances:
- whether there is a health or wellbeing issue which may affect the employee’s attendance or performance at work.
- how it may affect their attendance or performance, including time needed for appointments, when they will be ready to return to work.
- recommendations on measures that may assist them on their return to work
- recommendations on alternative duties or adjustments by agreement with management if they are unable to perform their usual role
- If the Equality Act may apply and if reasonable adjustments are required.
If you would like further information on the role and benefits of OH, contact me today