Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress

In this guide, we will discuss the topic of Occupational Health Referral Work related stress and what it means. 

Occupational health referral work-related stress: What is it?

An occupational health referral work-related stress is a referral made to an occupational health professional when the employer believes there are concerns related to their employee’s health or ability to do their work-related tasks. 

This is performed by an external healthcare professional, it helps determine any issues the employee’s faces or can face when performing their usual tasks.

They are also able to make recommendations or suggest adjustments to make your return to work easier and faster.

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)

The main purpose of Occupational Health is to support the effective management of health issues within the workplace.

They are concerned with work-related impacts of an employee’s health, both in terms of how work or the workplace might impact on the employee as well as how the employees’ health may impact on their work (gla.ac.uk). 

Diagnosis and treatment is not one of the purposes of OH, but to help and provide support to employees, through the interpretation of medical information and presenting it to the employers in a useful and clear way that allows them to consider work-related issues such as timescales of absences or adjustments which may be made to support employees in their place of work.

How is the referral process?

When you have accepted your employer’s agreement, you need to get in touch with an occupational health (OH) expert with a referral form.

To help them understand the nature of your role as an employee and how your condition can affect or is currently affecting your role and ability to work.

Your employer will make sure your referral includes all the information required and enough details about you, your work-related tasks and your overall health condition.

This will allow the Occupational Health professional to carry out an informed assessment.

Once they’ve received the form, they’ll contact you to schedule an appointment at a time that’s suitable for all parties involved.

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)
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Recommendations for managers

Talking to an employee can help resolve most of the issues you notice, meaning a medical opinion is not always needed or necessary.

However, in periods where the employee is absent long-term, you start to notice a reduces performance due to referred health problem or illness related to the work, consider filling out and sending the occupational health referral. 

Once the employee is assessed by a professional, they will make recommendations and suggestions related to the work environment, if considered necessary, so the employee can return to resume their labors. 

There are some occupational health referral employee rights in place, meaning the employee can :

It’s a good idea to be open and communicate during every step of the process.

Sending an occupational health referral letter to an employee may feel daunting, but it’s best to let them know what’s happening and what to expect.

Remember, Occupational Health isn’t there to punish people for ill-health. It’s designed to make their lives better.

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. 

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)

 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.

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)

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 

When to refer

According to gla.ac.uk, the following are the common (but not exhaustive) reasons/circumstances where a manager might wish to refer an employee to Occupational Health:

  • Where an employee has been absent from work on a number of occasions in recent weeks/months (e.g. meeting one or more of the Review Points)  
  • Where an employee is absent on a long-term basis (over 4 weeks)  
  • Where particular trends have been identified in an employee’s absence pattern  
  • Where a potential health problem has been identified which is affecting an employee at work and it would be helpful to know more about it, its impacts and what can be done to support the employee  
  • Where an Occupational Health assessment is required prior to an employee’s return to work  Where you wish to arrange counseling or physiotherapy sessions to support an employee at work (or to return to work) 
  • Referrals relating to short-term absences are normally made following the latest period of absence and are particularly relevant when following the Attendance Improvement Process.

Medical Issues Vs Management Issues 

Managers making a referral to OH need to make sure and be clear that they are referring due to a medical issue and not a management issue.

For instance, Occupational Health cannot directly resolve work-related stress matters as these are generally management issues that can only be addressed by managers themselves. 

These cases should be managed through the Form – Work-Related Stress.

Once this procedure has been followed, it may be appropriate to consider the need for a referral to Occupational Health (e.g. to make inquiries around the appropriateness of supportive counseling). 

The Occupational Health Referral Form Referrals should only be made using the Occupational Health Referral form.

This form is crucial to gather useful information and advice from Occupational Health and as such, it is vital that it is completed in full. 

When you are being referred to OH, your employer should discuss with you the reasons why you are being referred, if they don’t, ask them directly.

This makes sure that you are fully aware of why you are being referred to in the first place and to answer some of your questions.

When the referral is sent, this created the opportunity for your referring manager to explain to Occupational Health why they are making a referral, to provide the background to the specific case or the current position and to ask any specific questions they require to be considered. 

Why is this blog about occupational health referral work related stress important?

An occupational health referral for work-related stress is considered when an employer has identified that your health may be compromised as well as your ability to carry on with your duties.

By no means this need to be seen as 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. 

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about occupational health referral work related stress

Can I refuse an occupational health assessment?

If you refuse to an occupational health assessment your employer is still can make decisions in a vacuum, given that you won’t attend to the occupational health assessment.

Your employer can actually request or require you to attend an occupational health physician.  

Why does an employer refer you to occupational health?

The purpose of your employer referring you to occupational health is to enable new employees to seek medical advice or support from occupational health, where necessary when you need to be accommodated in a position that requires to take into consideration a health condition or disability. 

What is involved in an occupational health assessment?

An occupational health assessment is a medical examination performed by an occupational health physician that aims to advise employers on your overall health and make some recommendations/adjustments when necessary or considered to ensure your safety and wellbeing. 

How long does occupational health assessment take?

Occupational health assessments can take up to 45 minutes.

The physician will collect the relevant information needed to give an informed opinion about your overall health to your employer.

They can also take an extra 30 minutes to give a review at the end of your consultation. 

What does occupational health do for employees?

Occupational health is considered a specialized branch of medicine that focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of employees in the workplace.

They aim to prevent work-related illness and injury by making sure adjustments or recommendations are made to make sure you are working in a safe environment.  

Recommended reading

  • 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

Occupational Health Referral Work related stress (A brief guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.