Managing people when physical or mental wellbeing is a factor is best managed by teamwork. This team should be made up of HR, the employee, the employee’s manager and possibly some specialist help in the shape of Occupational Health.
Bringing in Occupational Health allows us to make better, more informed decisions; so, it’s really important that when instructing them we get all the information that we need. Often, the questions asked and the way that they are asked fall short of that. So, here’s our 6-point plan to make sure your Occupational Health report stacks up:
1. Be clear about the reason for referral and who best to request a report from
This sounds obvious but it’s worth taking the time to be sure of what you want the report to achieve. Are you just looking for a basic confirmation of the employee’s condition and likely recovery time, or are you looking for advice in relation to a long-term health condition and its effect upon their ability to perform their duties?
If it’s the latter, it’s worth noting that GP reports are often limited in this area and you are likely to get more information from an Occupational Health report.
Occupational Health professionals specialise in the health of people in the workplace. If a condition falls under the provisions of The Equality Act for reasonable adjustments, this is a legal consideration rather than a medical one, so an Occupational Health professional may also be able to offer greater guidance in this area. GP workloads may also mean you have to wait a significant amount of time to receive a report.
2. Make sure you are requesting a report at the most appropriate time
Requesting a report when a condition first comes to light may mean that not all the relevant information is available about the progress of the individual’s condition. So, you may wish to wait until some treatments and tests have been completed.
It’s wise to obtain information well before you may be faced with an employee severely struggling at work or where you are contemplating terminating an employee’s employment on grounds of medical capability.
3. Ask specific questions
Make sure your request for a medical report includes all the questions you want the answers to. Be specific, or risk receiving a report which doesn’t add any value to the information already have. You can find a link to a template letter requesting a report here.
You should also make sure that you give enough information about the employee’s duties. A job title can’t provide all the information needed and a standard job description isn’t always sufficiently comprehensive to reflect the day to day reality of the work.
4. Deal with reality
It’s worthwhile being clear if you have any particular concerns. Make sure the request for a report includes not only details of what you want to know, but explain why, and any background you feel is relevant. Be conscious that the employee may see not only see the report, but your request for the report too, so avoid any surprises by being upfront with the employee!
5. Ask for more if needed
If the report doesn’t address everything you were looking for or prompts further questions don’t hesitate to go back and ask for more information. Otherwise you risk relying on incomplete information to base, what could be, significant decisions.
Sometimes a condition may be particularly complex, and you might want to consider referral to an Occupational Health Physician or a Specialist for more detailed advice. Whilst requesting such reports may be a more expensive option (and there are also a limited number of HR Physicians in the country) they are able to provide greater depth of advice and be less likely to sit on the fence when answering your questions.
6. Only base decisions on up to date information
Always make sure that you are using recent information about the individual’s condition. If a report was requested some time ago, you may not necessarily be able to rely on it now. And finally, be sure to discuss the content of any report with the employee to make sure that they agree the accuracy of the information, and whether there is any further information they can add.
If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this formula; good quality input = good quality output.
A valuable and detailed Occupational Health report will ensure you can make the right decision for both your employee and your organisation.