Using your occupational health service
Your focus as a manager should be on the impact the employee’s health is having on their ability to undertake their role.
All you need to know in 30 seconds
The Occupational Health Service (OHS) supports you in making sure your employees are fit for the work they do, and how their work affects their health. OHS can provide support and guidance on how to support your employees and recommending reasonable adjustments to allow an employee to remain in the workplace or return to work.
Your focus as a line manager should be on the impact the employee’s health is having on their ability to undertake their role. You will need to discuss your reasons for the OHS referral with your employee and you should share the referral with them in advance of the appointment. Familiarising yourself with the OHS referral process will help you so you know how to make the referral and the likely timeframes so that you can communicate this to your employee. Click here for Management Referrals.
All you need to know in detail
The Occupational Health Service (OHS) aim is to improve the health & wellbeing of all employees within NHSGGC and help to ensure they have a healthier, safer working environment. OHS can support you in making sure your employees are fit for the work they do, and advise you on how their work affects their health. You can access a range of services including:
- Manager and Self Referrals for advice on employee sickness absence management
- Alcohol and Substance Support
- Infection prevention of work-related disease
- Exposure to long-term hazards such as repetitive strain injuries
- Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Infection prevention of work-related disease
- OH Physiotherapy Service
- Supporting Disabled Members of Staff
As a line manager you should focus on the impact the employee’s health is having on their ability to undertake their role, as opposed to the detailed nature of the health complaint and any treatment they may be receiving. OHS can provide you with further support and guidance around how to support your employees and any reasonable adjustments which could be made to allow the employee to remain in the workplace or return to work.
Make sure you discuss with employees the reasons for referring them to OHS, so that they understand and are fully aware of the reasons for referral. The employee should also be given a copy of the referral letter.
You need to be aware that confidentiality principles place constraints on OHS professionals in regard to the release of the personal medical information of staff. These apply in all cases.
The General Medical Council (GMC) principles are as follows:
- Staff have a right to expect that OH professionals will not disclose any personal information which is learned during the course of their professional duties, unless they give permission.
- When OH professionals are responsible for confidential information, they must make sure that the information is effectively protected against improper disclosure when it is disposed of, stored, transmitted or received.
- When staff give consent to the disclosure of information about them, OH professionals must make sure the employee understands what will be disclosed, the reasons for disclosure and the likely consequences.
- OH professionals must respect staff requests that information not be disclosed to third parties, apart from in exceptional circumstances (for example, where the health or safety of others would otherwise be at serious risk).
- If OH professionals disclose confidential information they should release only as much as is necessary for the stated purposes.
- OH professionals must make sure that the people receiving the information understand that it is given to them in confidence.
- If OH professionals decide to disclose confidential information, they must be prepared to explain and justify their decision.
It is helpful to familiarise yourself with the referral process for OHS so that you know what to do, how to make the referral and likely timeframes so that you can communicate this to your employee too. You will receive a report from OHS following the appointment detailing their advice and/or recommendations. If you feel you have any questions it is often easier to call the person who saw the employee to discuss it further. It is useful to remember that OHS may not know the demands of your department, so the more you can put into the referral the easier it will be for them to understand how the role might impact on the individual and their particular health circumstances.
In complex absences cases you may request a case conference with the Occupational Health Specialist who is reviewing the employee. This would be appropriate where you require further specific information or, wish to discuss the case in more depth so you have the information you require to make appropriate management decisions on the way forward. The case conference may involve yourself and an HR representative or, it may also include the employee and their trade union representative where you believe this would benefit the process. Your HR representative will provide you with guidance and advice.
Employees can be reluctant or concerned about being referred to OHS. It is useful to have this in your mind so that you can reassure the employee about the appointment and how OHS can help. This may help to reduce any anxiety the employee may experience.