Occupational health services assess the impact of people’s health on their work, and work on their health.

As a line manager, HR manager or business owner, you are unlikely to be medically trained so probably aren’t able to make a decision on the best way to manage an employee suffering from a health condition. This is where an occupational health service comes in.

Occupational health professionals (sometimes called occupational health advisors, nurses, doctors or physicians) are clinicians trained in assessing all matters of health in the workplace. They will take time to understand the individual’s job role within your organisation, and any background that you need them to be aware of. This could include any relevant health history, as well as situational context such as recent job changes or pertinent conversations.

They will then have an assessment with the employee, discussing at length the employee’s health background, functional ability, perception of the situation and any other related topics. Following on from this, the occupational health service would typically produce a report which details the advice for the referring manager, and answering any specific questions they may have raised.

This can include questions such as:

  • Is my employee currently fit for work?
  • Do I need to offer any support to an employee?
  • Does the employee need any adjustments to enable them to work?
  • Is the employee ready to return to work yet?
  • Does the employee have a health condition that has been caused or exacerbated by their job?
  • Is the employee covered by the Equality Act?

There is a wealth of case law, particularly from employment tribunals, that emphasise the importance of getting professional advice before making management decisions on matters of employee health. So it is always recommended that you use your occupational health service when an employee raises a health concern to you.