Occupational Health and Reasonable Adjustments

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occupational health
How does an employer know what adjustments are to be made to a returning employee who is unable to undertake the full duties of their role?

In the first instance most employers do not have the medical experience to understand the full nature of illnesses and injuries. Therefore they require the input of an Occupational Health service who assess the ability of the employee to undertake the duties as outlined in the job description.

It is the responsibility of the employer to manage the absence of the employee and it’s the obligation of the employee to manage their own health. That requires the employee attending their GP and agreeing a plan of action to address their symptoms and manage the prognosis for recovery. Now the GP may well refer an employee to a specialist consultant for further advice and treatment. That information should be fed back to the GP and on request from the employer via the employee, a report outlining their symptoms and treatment plan can be provided.

The employer should subsequently refer the employee to the Occupational Health service, asking specifically what adjustments can be made to the role that enables them to continue working. That referral will be provided along with the GP report AND a copy of the job description.

This provides the Occupational Health service with the information they require to make the assessment. By meeting the employee (or via telephone) and discussing all 3 documents (Job description, referral and GP report), the Occupational Health service will then provide a report to the employer with recommendations of adjustments that can be made to the role.

The role of the employer is then to assess whether those adjustments can be accommodated within the service and whether they can be accommodated permanently or temporarily, again dependent on the needs of the business.

Once those adjustments are agreed then this is to be confirmed in a letter to the employee, plus also agreeing a suitable review period, after which the employer and employee sit down and discuss the success of the arrangement and whether it will continue or not.

Reviewing regularly will provide the employer with the structure to retain control of the situation and ensure the business continues to operate effectively. It also provides the employee with the forum to raise any concerns about the arrangement and between them can agree how the situation is to be managed in the future.

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