A "occupational health referral" involves the referral of an employee to one of the following occupational health specialists in order to determine how their health may impact on their ability to work, or the effect of work on their health. Many referrals to our OH Service are for the management of absence, be it a long term absence issues or recurring periods of absence or sometimes a complex absence issue with a number of underlying factors. Because of this, we use a biopsychosocial approach to sickness absence management. We try to help to identify any obstacles to a return to work, underlying issues, initiating open conversations about any problems, concerns and support required. We try to help outline the expectations of all parties involved and to help ensure that the sickness management process is structured, consistent, clear and fair.

Research shows that the longer people are off sick, the less likely they are to make a successful return to work. After six months absence from work, there is only a 50 per cent chance of someone making a successful return. According to the Annual Absence Management Report 2016, the annual cost of sickness absence across the UK has lowered since 2015 from a median cost £835 per employee per year to a median £522 per employee per year in 2016. Some organisations are unable to measure the true underlying costs associated with absence this really can be a very costly problem and often is one area that investment in the provision of Occupational Health can provide real returns.

Management of health related absence is the responsibility of managers. However, referral to occupational health can be an effective way of supporting managers in the management of long and short term health related absence. Early intervention is critical as evidence suggests that the longer an individual is away from work, this reduces the chances are of the individual returning to their normal functioning and productivity in the workplace after sickness absence. 

The role of the Occupational Health service in relation to the management of health related absence is to:

  1. Provide clear, actionable, advice to managers on fitness for work issues;
  2. Provide support and advice to employees regarding their specific health issues as well as the promotion of wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle;
  3. Advise both employee and management on appropriate rehabilitation programmes/return to work strategies,

Companies use occupational health referrals for a variety of reasons. The main reasons for referral to occupational health includes:

  • Where they have had several episodes of short-term absences in line with your company’s health related absence (sick leave) policy.
  • Where there is concern that they may have work related health problems or that existing health problems are being aggravated by work duties.
  • Where they may have difficulties coping on return after being absent e.g. following a serious illness or disability.
  • Where there may be an underlying health factor contributing to performance issues.
  • Where there is long term or continuous health related absence i.e. longer than that stated within the company sickness absence policy.
  • If you are uncertain whether or not a referral is appropriate you should contact The Health and Work Consultancy for advice

Following assessment from management referral report will provide appropriate advice on how to return a person safely back to work. The report will ensure that legal implications are considered such as; whether the individual’s medical condition is likely to be covered under the disability provision of the Equality Act 2010 and whether any reasonable adjusts are recommended.

What are the benefits to you?

The Occupational Health (OH) assessment will enable the Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) to provide a clear opinion on:

  • Fitness for work: whether or not the person has a health problem that may affect fitness for work;
  • Return to work: if the person is currently absent, when they are likely to return;
  • Rehabilitation advice;
  • Temporary or permanent workplace restrictions/adjustments that need to be considered (may be in line with the measures that may enable the person to return to work before full recovery;
  • The implications of the Equality Act 2010 ;
  • Future attendance: how much absence is likely in future due to health problem

This advice should enable you to deal with any problems in a fair, consistent manner, balancing the needs of the employee with business priorities and requirements.

The above recommendations on adjustments are advisory to the company and it ultimately at the discretion of the employer as to whether workplace adjustments can be accommodated or not.

Our Occupational health referral service includes:

  • online management referral using our security encrypted website
  • face-to-face or telephone consultation with the employee
  • an Occupational Health Report within the agreed timescale
  • administration of letters for medical reports
  • single point of contact to provide updates on the referral process
  • occupational health clinical notes written and securely held by The Health and Work Consultancy
  • impartial support at case conferences 
  • provision of specific advice sheets for the employee e.g: stress management, back care, managing shift work etc
  • trend analysis on the cases referred by your business.

Further Sources of Information

If you have any questions about referring your employees for health and work advice or any other occupational health services for your business in South Wales or the South of England, don't hesitate to call us on 02920 682028 or Contact us.