Getting value for money and reducing timescales from your referrals to occupational health
OH referrals are expensive, but can be crucial in achieving a successful return to work, a sustained return to work, an earlier return to work or a fair dismissal (which means they are in fact amazing value!).
There are two ingredients to getting a useful OH report:
- Asking the right questions
- Providing all the relevant background information.
The referral form is your opportunity, as the employer, to give the “employer’s side of the story”. Always keep in mind that the employee will almost certainly see the referral form you have completed, and so the information needs to be factual and complete as it will provide an invaluable context for the OH practitioner; if you don’t tell them, don’t assume the employee will!
The most critical questions to ask are:
- What are the likely timescales for a return to work? (Or is there no prospect of a return to work in the foreseeable future?).
- What changes (adjustments) could you as the employer consider making to support a return to work? (Phased return or similar)?
In terms of the background information; make no assumptions. Work on the basis that the OH practitioner knows nothing about the role, or working in a school, so explain it in full including the physical, cognitive and emotional dynamics of the job. Spell out the context, if the person was subject to formal proceedings (capability or disciplinary) and has gone absent due to stress, then explain this, in straightforward factual terms. If there is structural change taking place, and the person has gone absent due to stress, tell them, again in factual terms. If there is conflict in the workplace, or a grievance or similar, explain that context. Do provide the detailed absence history, dates and reason for at least a 12 month rolling period.
The less information you provide on the referral form, the more likely you are to receive a report written solely from the perspective of the employee’s contribution to the process. Far better to spend a week or so getting the referral as complete as possible than to refer in haste and receive a report that doesn’t meet your needs.