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Six best-practice tips on how to make an occupational health referral

When an employee’s health is affecting their ability to carry out their job or their job is adversely affecting their health, a manager may need to refer them to an occupational health adviser.

While medical details are private and confidential, employers have a number of responsibilities when it comes to the occupational health and wellbeing of their staff.

For this reason, an occupational health practitioner can act as a filter between the employee and their medical details.

It’s important to get the process of an occupational health referral right.

Here are six tips about how you can make an occupational health referral as simple as possible for everyone involved.

How to make an OH referral - Tip 1: Be clear

As a manager, you should be clear about the reason for the OH referral.

You’ll need to ask the OH practitioner a series of questions. The more specific these questions are, the more likely you are to get the answers that will help to move things forward.

Ideally, referrals should be limited to about four to six questions.

These questions could include:

  • Is this employee medically fit to work in this role?
  • When, if absent, are they likely to be able to return to work?
  • Are any adjustments needed to help the employee in their work?
  • Are there any restrictions on what the employee can do in their role?
  • Is the employee receiving the appropriate medical care and support?
  • Is the employee’s illness caused or exacerbated by their work?
  • If the employee is taking medication, is it likely to impair their ability to do their job?

How to make an OH referral - Tip 2: Obtain consent

Having made the OH referral, the manager now needs to explain to their employee the purpose of the referral.

They will also need to obtain the employee’s consent to be referred to occupational health.

It’s important to put the referral in context. It might relate to concerns around their performance at work, an existing health problem that needs additional support or an increase in staff absence.

How to make an OH referral - Tip 3: Writing the referral

An occupational health referral is often written on a pro forma template.

Details should include the employee’s:

  • Job title
  • Length of service
  • Absence record
  • Date of birth
  • Grievances or complaints

The specific reason for the referral should be clearly stated. This should include the questions to be answered by the OH practitioner.

The employee should see a copy of the form and give their consent by signing it.

It can now be sent to arrange the appointment.

How to make an OH referral - Tip 4: The consultation

During the consultation, the OH practitioner will take all of the details that have been provided.

They may need to obtain medical reports from the employee’s doctor and, in some cases, a medical examination may be required (subject to the employee’s consent).

The OH practitioner is not usually able to carry out investigations, make referrals or treat employees.

How to make an OH referral - Tip 5: The report

The report that is written by the OH practitioner will need written and informed consent from the employee. They also have the right to see it before it is sent to their manager and will be given one to three days to comment on the report.

The employee can ask for facts to be corrected. But if they disagree with an opinion in the report, the OH practitioner is not obliged to change an opinion.

However, the report should reference any differences of opinion.

The report itself should address the main reason for the referral and answer the specific questions.

The report can now be sent to the manager. A copy will also be sent to the employee, HR representative and, in some cases, the employee’s GP.

How to make an OH referral - Tip 6: Moving things forward

Once the manager has received the report, they can review it and action any recommendations.

The best kind of OH referral reports will make it easy for managers to find clear solutions to problems.

It should make clear recommendations and suggest potential adjustments that could move the situation forward and, hopefully, resolve it completely.


It’s always best to speak to an occupational health specialist before starting an OH referral.

They can advise on the best times to make the referral, in light of the employee’s specific circumstances.

If you’d like to find out how our own occupational health services can offer help and support during an OH referral, contact the team at Fusion now.

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Categories: EmployeesHealth & WellbeingOccupational HealthSupport

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