In this guide we will discuss Can I refuse to see occupational health and what happens when you are referred to see occupational health.
Can I refuse to see occupational health?
You can refuse to see occupational health. As an employee, you have the right to refuse to attend an occupational health assessment or any other related health meeting. This refusal can be associated with personal beliefs or your fear of sharing your medical history, among other personal reasons that can lead to your refusal to see occupational health.
Even though it is your right to refuse, employers should always do their best to try encouraging employees to attend any recommended health meeting but to remember that a staff member does have the right to refuse. That said if an employee refuses they should be made aware that management will then have to make any and all decisions about their future employment without any medical information.
Refusal to attend an Occupational Health Referral Appointment
Employees can have several reasons why they refuse to attend an appointment with occupational health and sometimes the reason is well-founded, for instance, they may have a medical condition that is becoming worse due to their job which they believe they will lose their job or may be re-deployed.
They can also be referred to identify if certain behaviors are caused by ill-health. If the answer is no or only a little bit this can leave employers free to follow a disciplinary route for the employee.
Your refusal will have an impact on the information available to your employer about your health. This only means that there won’t be able to make adjustments or changes to your work environment since they don’t really know what is going on. It also means that your employer cannot ascertain your safety as an employee in a role you will need to redeploy or suspend from those duties.
Some employers will try exploring why you are refusing to attend and your employer must try to solve any questions or doubts you may have about the occupational health referral.
Refusal to allow your employer to see your report
If you have already attended your appointment, you can refuse your employer to receive the report. After you have seen an adviser, physician or psychiatrist, they will ask if questions your employer needs about your current work situation. When you get to the assessment, the Occupational Health professional will explain their role.
After the assessment, the Occupational Health professional will explain what they will write about in your report. The General Medical Council Guidelines state that the employee should have “no surprises” regarding the content of the letter.
Then you will be asked to sign a consent form which has 3 options:
1. The letter goes at the same time to the employer/employee.
2. You, as an employee, decide not to see the letter.
3. You, as an employee have the right to see the letter prior to your employer.
If option 3 is ticked the letter is typed and sent to the employee. They have 5 working days to either allow the letter to go/provide factual amendments/Refuse to allow the letter to go/ Provide supplementary information to be attached to the letter to your employer.
There are only changes permitted to factual information such as your Date of Birth/Objective data re job role/ Dates and times. In addition, information that can’t be modified includes the professional medical opinion/recommended adjustments, etc. If you refuse, the Occupational Health Professional will have to inform your employer.
What is an occupational health assessment?
An occupational health assessment or also known as a sickness absence referral, management referral or occupational health return to work assessment, is considered an evaluation that you undergo as an employee with a qualified occupational health professional in order to assess and document specific health concerns, issues and goals for the future.
A nurse or a doctor that has an additional qualification in OH can conduct your assessment and will discuss setting up the appointment at a time that is convenient for you, needless to say, every detail shared or discussed during this time will be kept confidential at all times unless given written consent to share the report.
According to staywelloh.co.uk, “these assessments are often structured based on the employees’ answers that have been gleaned from workplace surveys and referral forms. Any information collected during the meeting will be compiled into a report that will be used to assist the employer in order to make positive changes within the workplace. These reports are never intended to be medical documents for personalized diagnoses and treatment plans, but if information arises that concerns the consulting nurse or doctor they may suggest a referral for additional medical treatments or appointments.”
Occupational Health report
This report will be a detailed overview of your current medical status and your future capacity to return to work in a successful manner. It should only focus on your fitness to return to work, and should not include any other performance issues unrelated to your health issues.
Your written consent will be asked by the OH on all matters related to your current health situation. These reports will contain your relevant and appropriate medical information, including any suggestions, recommendations or interventions that are planned so the HR team can have a clear picture of your medical condition. The language should be easy to understand.
Any limitations or disabilities that may affect your performance should be written and informed in full with the related medical professional opinion about your condition projected to the future. For instance, is it a permanent disability and you require retirement to get a solution?
Finally, it should also contain any relevant information about how your condition is connected to your related tasks or work. It is important to determine if this illness is a result of an accident at your workplace or if it is considered a repetitive disorder. Any internal disputes should also be well documented in case of future litigation.
Guidance for employees
Referrals are designed to help employees, not to make their life difficult or give them a hard time. It is not meant to be seen as a test or a way to get them out of the company. Some people do consider going to OH as a punishment but it is not really the case, the idea is to adapt to the employee’s situation or needs.
If your employee has concerns or notices they are in distress, encourage them to speak to their manager/boss or with the HR department. Explaining the purpose of the referral as a way to find out if their health is currently affected, and giving them clear and concise information about it can make their life easier in the long run.
What can you expect?
You may have asked yourself the question, “what can I expect from a referral?”.
When you arrive at your appointment, you will see a doctor or a nurse and they will ask you questions to get a full picture of your overall health. Assessments can also be carried out via telephone.
This is necessary so the assessor can use the information collected through your answers, as the information required to make suggestions or recommendations for changes you can make to the work process.
Are these referrals confidential?
Yes, referrals are confidential. No one except your employer, you and the assessor will have access to the information gathered (especially not without the employee’s express written consent).
What information can I expect as an employer?
Based on your answers, the healthcare professional will prepare a report. This can include an overall health overview related to your duties. Also, it can include details of any changes or recommendations that need to be made so you can return to your work.
For instance, in the case of an occupational health referral for work-related stress and depending on your symptoms, changes could include reasonable adjustments to lower workload, reduce hours or the opportunity to work remotely.
This can be perceived as intense and overwhelming but just remember that the purpose of the assessment is to understand your condition and make suggestions that will make your job easier. There are no right or wrong answers, and it can be considered as an opportunity to ask for the adjustments you consider will help.
It is believed that Occupational Health can provide advice across a range of areas that include but are not limited to:
- The potential impact a medical condition may have on your overall ability to attend your work-related tasks or carry out your duties
- Likely return to work timescales
- Whether or not workplace adjustments/changes may need to be considered
Why is this blog about “Can I refuse to see Occupational Health” important?
The answer to the question “Can I refuse to see Occupational Health?” as we have discussed, involves having the right to refuse to see OH. However, if you are being referred to OH it is by no means a punishment, on the contrary, you can see it as an opportunity to improve your current health and situation.
There is no need to be afraid of getting a referral and attending an assessment, this is only to see how is your health and if the OH professional needs to submit suggestions, recommendations or adjustments that your employer needs to consider in order to make sure you have a healthy and safe work environment.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about “Can I refuse to see Occupational health”
Is Occupational Health confidential?
The occupational health service is confidential, no information is shared or divulged to any third party, including the person’s general practitioner without getting informed consent.
Is it a legal requirement for an employer to provide occupational health?
Every employer must make sure they provide a safe work environment and must assess risk at work. Many employers consider that they meet the legal requirements based on the fact that they have a safety policy and a health and safety officer.
What does an occupational health check involve?
An occupational health check involves health screenings required by an employer. This is mainly used to reduce work-related injuries. In many cases, it can also be used to determine an employee’s ability or fitness to work.
Why do you get referred to occupational health?
You can get referred to occupational health through a management referral, self-referral or on offer referral (new employee).
Can your employer see your medical records?
Your employer can’t see your medical records without your written consent.
- Fitness for Work: The Medical Aspects
- Oxford Handbook of Occupational Health 2/e (Flexicover) (Oxford Medical Handbooks)
- The Complementary Therapist’s Guide to Red Flags and Referrals, 1e