What is a Management Referral?
If managers have concerns about the health of an individual related to their job then a specialist health adviser may be needed to give your business some work advice; the most common type of assessment will be from an occupational health service. The individuals’ GP, whilst understanding the health issues and their patient, may not understand the work processes or the hazards present in the workplace. More importantly though is the patient/Doctor relationship which is primarily based on the GP being supportive of their patient, making decisions about employment difficult due to conflicting interests between the work and health.
An independent medical assessment from an occupational health service is a way of obtaining a work focused, objective and medically competent opinion. This is particularly import when work is considered high risk, where long-term capability is in question or the situation is overlaid with domestic issues and conflicts with management.
How can occupational health services help:
Occupational health services advise managers of how a referral can help with specific health issue at work.
The most common types of questions asked by managers using the service are:
- Is he/she fit to undertake/return to their job?
- Is there an underlying medical condition to account for this level of sickness absence?
- Is it likely that the Equality Act 2010 will apply?
- When will he/she be fit to undertake full duties?
- What sort of work adjustments are necessary to help this person stay at work?
- Is this level of absence likely to continue?
- Is there more help or support we can give to help this person?
What’s the impact on your business:
Managers need to understand what a person can or can’t do and by engaging an occupational health service the advice will be independent of the person and be meaningful for your work situation. Managers always have the last word in whether to accept the recommendations from occupational health as they are responsible in law.
Managers/Employers will discuss the need for referral to occupational health with each person before setting up an appointment. Following discussions between the manager and the worker, the referral papers are sent to the independent medical adviser for an appointment to be arranged.
During the occupational health appointment/discussion and this could be either face to face or over the phone, the employee will discuss health issues relevant to work with the assessor; if face to face there may also be a physical examination.
All discussions are medical ‘in confidence’ and the report sent by occupational health to the employer will have been discussed with the person. Many employees find the consultation of great benefit, not only to talk to another health professional but advice generally given covers alternative methods of treatments or reassurance. The recommendations coming from the assessment are aimed to help the employee who is struggling to cope at work due to health issues.
If employees refuse to cooperate with the referral process then management decisions may be made without the benefit of professional objective health advice.
The Government is also offering £500 a year for each employee on medical treatments recommended by Fit for Work or an employer-arranged occupational health service in the near future – for further information go to the UK Government website here.
Is there any Law about this?
All business should make sure the general health and safety of their staff and those affected by their work and this is covered under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
Management referrals to occupational health must be made with the full knowledge of the employee concerned. It is important that the medical assessor is aware of all relevant facts about the situation so that the advice given is meaningful and useful to both the manager and the employee.
The nature of the worker’s job is important too as different levels of physical and mental capabilities are required for different jobs – think of the physical requirements needed to be a miner as opposed to a receptionist? So a job description should be provided.
Bear in mind too that personal health issues under the Data Protection Act are classes as ‘sensitive’ in nature so confidentiality in the workplace is important to keep within the law and to keep your employee’s trust.
The report from occupational health will answer the questions asked, and may contain recommendations for the employer to consider, such as adaptations to the workplace, phased return after absence and work adjustments; it is the employers decision of whether to accept the independent medical recommendations although if there is a disability the employer would be expected to make reasonable adjustments to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
How to do a Management Referral video here
The Government has launched its new fitness to work service for employers and GP’s for those off sick for 4 weeks.
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