How to refer an employee to the Oxford University Occupational Health referral service
Occupational Health is a specialised clinical discipline concerned with the relationship between health and work. We work with both the employer and employee to minimise the effect work can have on the health of the employee, whilst trying to ensure that the health of the employee does not adversely affect the work they are employed to do.
One of the roles of Occupational Health is to advise about fitness for work. The aim is to ensure that the activities that you carry out at work and the environment in which you work will not adversely affect health. We also recommend workplace adjustments that could be considered to assist you in overcoming any health challenges that may be affecting you in the workplace.
Referral to Occupational Health for advice will generally be for one of the following reasons:
- At the recruitment stage to ensure that you are fit for work and identify any recommended workplace adjustments to be considered
- If you have been absent from work due to illness for a period of time
- If you have several shorter absences due to ill-health
- If there are concerns about your fitness whilst you are at work
- You have had an accident or incident resulting in sick leave
- You have other health issues affecting your attendance, performance or behaviour at work that causes concern
Referrals can either be made by management or HR Business Partners in conjunction with the employee, or an employee may refer themself for Occupational Health advice and guidance.
Details about management referrals and self-referrals can be found in the links below.
Management referrals can be made by either the manager of an individual or a HR representative, in conjunction with the individual. To refer an individual this way a management referral form must be completed and sent to the Occupational Health enquiries mailbox. Upon receipt of a referral form, OHS will assess the referral and assign it to a case manager. Notification of the earliest available appointment will be sent to the employee and manager within 5 days.
The management referral form can be accessed here:
Completed referral forms can be sent to Occupational Health here:
Submit a completed referral form
The reasons for the referral being made must be discussed with the employee and agreed between them and the referring manager prior to the referral being sent to Occupational Health. Failure to do this will result in referrals being cancelled.
The process for management referrals is set out below:
- The manager, supervisor or HR Business Partner should discuss the reasons for referral with the individual who is being referred
- The individual should fully understand the rationale for the referral, and what feedback is required from Occupational Health
- The individual should indicate whether they consent for the referral to take place. Please note that the Occupational Health Clinician will explore issues around understanding consent within the consultation
- A management referral form is completed by the manager, supervisor or HR Business Partner
- The management referral form should be sent to Occupational Health for processing
- A clinician will scrutinise the content of the form and decide who is best placed to undertake the consultation, or contact the referrer for more information
- The individual should receive an appointment offer within 5 working days of the referral being received and approved by Occupational Health
- The employee attends the appointment and all relevant aspects of their health will be explored confidentially
- At the end of the appointment, the clinician will outline the proposed content of their subsequent report to the individual
- Individuals will be able to choose at this point whether to (a) consent for the report to go to the referrer based on the proposed contents, or may opt to (b) have an advance copy for comment
Please note the following:
- If (a) applies, the referrer and the individual should receive a copy of the report by email within 5 working days
- If (b) applies, a copy of the report will be sent to the individual within 5 working days. We would expect an indication within a further 2 working days whether consent is given to send the report on to the referrer or not
- If consent is given, the report will be sent to the referrer immediately
- If consent is not given, a courtesy email will be sent to the referrer stating that consent has been declined
Occupational Health will prepare a management report following the appointment. Occupational Health reports are designed to offer an objective and professional opinion regarding issues around work and health, including fitness for work, workplace adjustments that may be considered, strategies to avoid occupational-related ill-health, but will not contain any specific or detailed medical information.
Occupational Health will abide by the individual's decision regarding consent. If consent is declined, a courtesy email will be sent to the referrer explaining that the report will not be forthcoming.
Guidance for managers
In every management referral there should be a clear reason for the referral.
If the referral is regarding absence it should include details of sickness absence and whether this is long term or frequent short term absences. It is helpful to include an indication of the frequency, the reasons the employee attributes to their sickness absence, and copies of self-certificates and GP Fitness Certificates.
The manager should also specify any concerns about performance or work capability and/or conduct that could be underpinned by a health related issue.
It should be clear that the employee has been informed about the reasons for the referral and that they agree to the referral process.
If the management referral form shows any indication that the manager has not understood the remit of Occupational Health and/or the reason for referral, you will be contacted to discuss the referral form and offer guidance. This may result in the need for submission of a revised referral form once the consent has been re-sought by the referring manager form the employee to be referred.
Upon receipt in Occupational Health, the referral form will be triaged and assigned to an Occupational Health Practitioner to case manage. Occupational Health Services will send an appointment letter via email to the employee using the email address provided on the referral form. You will also receive a copy of this letter. The appointment letter should be generated within 5 working days of the referral being received by Occupational Health Services.
If the employee is unable to attend the appointment offered, they must contact Occupational Health Services no later than 48 hours before their appointment is due in order to reschedule. We do appreciate that from time to time, unforeseen circumstance will arise where upon the employee will be unable to give 48 hours’ notice to reschedule.
You will receive notification of any rescheduled appointments.
In the event that the employee does not attend their appointment, Occupational Health Services will advise you of this via email and will take your advice on if a further appointment for the employee should be booked.
Occupational Health Service reports are designed to offer an objective and expert opinion regarding to how the health of the individual affects them in their workplace or how the workplace is affecting their health. These reports also provide advice on what might make it easier for the employee to carry out their duties successfully whilst taking into account their health problem or disability.
Information in the Occupation Health Services report is advisory only. It is at the discretion of the referring manager to decide whether they can support or accommodate any suggested adjustments or adaptations.
Where rehabilitation programs are suggested, it is for the manager to decide if they are reasonable and manageable from an operational perspective. If there is any doubt about this, or managers require further advice, they should contact the Occupational Health Practitioner who will be happy to discuss this further.
In the interests of both the referrer and employee, the Occupational Health Practitioner must adopt a neutral, professional position. The reports should reflect this stance.
The report should address the questions asked and offer the Occupational Health Practitioner’s medical opinion where necessary. The report may also advise upon other factors or questions outside of those indicated to be answered in the referral if the Occupational Health practitioner believes it would be detrimental to the employee and or employer if these were not addressed for legal and/or safety reasons.
The report should also capture if the Occupational Health Practitioner believes there is an appropriate reason to review the employee again or if the case will be closed after the initial consultation
Other important factors to consider when interpreting the Occupational Health report:
- Occupational Health Practitioners are registered practitioners and therefore work within the legal framework of the Data Protection Act 2018, and adhere to the standards set down in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s, General Medical Council’s, and other relevant bodies’ Codes of Conduct. Preservation of confidentiality is paramount in Occupational Health activities.
- The employee’s consent is required in order to send you the report. On occasions where the employee may decline consent to release some or all of the report content to the referring manager, the Occupational Health Practitioner will discuss the ramifications of this with the employee. If the practitioner’s opinion is based on incorrect facts, reconsideration to the opinion will be considered. However, if the facts are correct there will be no change the professional opinion. In the event that the employee continues to disagree and therefore consent is not given, we are unable to forward the report to the referring manager. Occupational Health will inform the referring manager if this is the case.
- In most cases, disclosing the employee medical condition(s) is not necessary nor may it be seen as acceptable if legally challenged. However, overview of how this condition may affect their functional capacity and how this translates in the workplace should be included.
- It is important to remember that the Occupational Health remit is not to diagnose medical conditions. Occupational Health Services are able to confirm a diagnosis where documentary evidence has been provided by the employee from their GP and/or Specialist.
- In the majority of cases, it is not necessary to obtain GP or Specialist reports as the Occupational Health Practitioners are skilled in taking medical histories, understanding what medication the individual has been prescribed, and how this may affect the individual in terms of their functional capacity.
- The Occupational Health Practitioner may request a report from the GP and/or Specialist for example where cases are complex, symptoms may appear to be extensive, episodic but yet there is no diagnosis, or where Ill-health Retirement may be indicated.
- Symptoms the individual describe may be an indication of a potential underlying health condition(s), however, it is not for the Occupational Health Practitioner to offer an opinion in regards to whether these symptoms are ‘genuine’. It is the Occupational Health Practitioner’s responsibility to signpost the employee to the most appropriate pathway to obtain the medical support that may be required to treat and/or diagnosis the symptoms, and to capture this in the report with their consent. In addition, the report should identify how the reported symptoms affect the employee’s functional capacity in the workplace, and advise on how the employee may be best supported in the workplace to manage these symptoms.
- Recovery rates after surgery can vary widely but patients are usually provided with useful written guidance about what to expect after an operation. Examples of such guidance notes are published by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and may be used for discussion with an employee when offering an opinion of expected return to work time frames in the Occupational Health report to managers.
You should receive the Occupational Health Services report within 10 working days of the appointment. This provide time for the Occupational Health Practitioner to write the report, send it to the employee, and for the employee to review and release consent for the report to be sent to you.
In cases where there is a delay in the report being sent and/or you the employee has not given consent for the report being released, Occupational Health Services will inform the referring manager(s) via email (copying the employee in) that consent to release the report has not been given. In these circumstances you may need to make decisions regarding the employee case without the benefit of Occupational Health Services advice or opinion.
Guidance for employees being referred
Employees, with their consent, may be referred by their manager to the Occupational Health Service for an opinion on the effect of work on health or health on work.
The referral may be in relation to:
- Post offer of employment where the employee has indicated they may have a disability or require adjustments and/or adaptations in their workplace in order to fulfil their employed role.
- Sickness absence and/or performance related concerns where a known or suspected health condition(s) may be affecting the employee’s attendance and ability to fulfil some aspects of their employed role.
- Where the work place or workplace activities appear to be having a detrimental effect on the employee’s health.
A management referral form must be completed by your manager, supervisor, or HR Business Partner which will provide Occupational Health Services with some information about your job, recent sickness absence (if relevant), and the concerns your manager has about you.
The referral will ask specific questions regarding your health and wellbeing. The answers to these questions will help your manager to make appropriate decisions to support you at work.
Ideally, the form will be completed by your referring manager with you present, so that you fully understand the reason(s) for the referral, can review any additional documentation that may need to be attached to the referral, and have the opportunity to discuss the referral with the referring manager.
In circumstances where upon you are not able to be present when your referring manager completes the referral, the completed referral form and supporting documentation (where applicable) should be sent to you for review.
If you agree with the referral content, your referring manager will then send the competed referral form and any supporting documentation to Occupational Health Services via email.
Upon receipt in Occupational Health, the referral form will be triaged and assigned to an Occupational Health Practitioner to manage the case.
Occupational Health Services will then send you an appointment letter via email to the email address provided on the referral form. You should normally receive the appointment letter within 5 working days of the referral being received.
If you are unable to attend the appointment offered, you must contact Occupational Health Services no later than 48 hours before your appointment is due in order to reschedule. We do appreciate that from time to time unforeseen circumstance will arise where upon you will be unable to give 48 hours’ notice to reschedule.
Your referring manager will be advised of any rescheduled appointments.
In the event that you do not attend your appointment, your referring manager will be notified and will advise Occupational Health Services if a further appointment is required.
At your appointment the Occupational Health Practitioner will go through the referral form with you to ensure you understand the reasons for the referral and consent to the consultation taking place. These consultations usually take 45-60 minutes.
The Occupational Health Practitioner will need to gather sufficient medical information from you to enable them to write an accurate, objective and useful opinion in regards to the reason for the referral and the questions that have been indicated to be answered on your referral form. This assessment will also give you an opportunity to talk, in confidence, about any concerns you might have regarding your health at work, with an experienced Occupational Health Practitioner.
At the end of your consultation the Occupational Health Practitioner will summarise the information gathered and give you a verbal outline of the report they will generate to your referring manager.
Occupational Health Services reports are designed to offer an objective and professional opinion regarding fitness for work. These reports also provide advice on what might make it easier for you to carry out your duties successfully whilst taking into account your health issue and/or disability.
Information in the Occupation Health Services report is advisory only. It is for your manager to decide whether they can support or accommodate any suggested adjustments or adaptations.
The Occupational Health Practitioner will write the report and send this to you via email for your consideration within 5 working days of the consultation. You will be given a further 5 working days in order to approve the report and provide your consent to it being sent.
If you have concerns in regards to the report you should contact the Occupational Health Practitioner to discuss this. If their opinion is based on incorrect facts then you should highlight this - the Practitioner is normally happy to reconsider their opinion in these circumstances. However, if the facts are correct they will inevitably not change their professional opinion but should take the time to explain this to you. If agreement cannot be reached and we do not obtain your consent to send the report
In cases where there is a delay in the report being sent and/or you do not agree to the report being released, Occupational Health Services will inform your referring manager(s) via email (copying you in) that consent to release the report has not been given. In these circumstances your manager will need to make decisions regarding your case without the benefit of Occupational Health Services advice or opinion.
Occupational Health Practitioners are registered practitioners and therefore work within the legal framework of the Data Protection Act 2018, and adhere to the standards set down in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s, General Medical Council’s, and other relevant bodies’ Codes of Conduct.
Occupational Health will not share any information about you with a third party without your informed consent.
If you are concerned that work is affecting your health or that a health problem is affecting your ability to do your job, you can arrange for a referral to Occupational Health for advice and guidance. We are able to offer you workplace advice and signpost you to the appropriate organisations for additional support where necessary. The appointment will not generate a report to your manager.
We would always encourage you to discuss any problems you are having in the work place with your manager. You do not need to disclose any medical information to them. Your manager may be able to address your concerns without the need to involve Occupational Health.
If your manager needs further guidance, they will also be able to refer you to Occupational Health. Please see the management referrals tab for more information.
Self-referrals can be made by completing a self-referral form and sending this to Occupational Health.
Self-referral forms can be accessed from here:
Completed referral forms can be sent to Occupational Health here:
Submit a completed referral form
An outline of the process is detailed below:
- The employee completes the self-referral form
- The Self-Referral Form is sent to Occupational Health
- The Self-Referral Form is triaged by Occupational Health
- An appointment is offered to the employee within 5 days of receipt of the Self-Referral Form by Occupational Health
- The employee attends the appointment
- The employee is provided with guidance and advice within 10 days following the appointment
At your appointment the Occupational Health Practitioner assigned to your case will go through the referral form with you. These consultations usually take 45-60 minutes. This assessment will give you an opportunity to talk in confidence about any concerns you might have regarding your health at work with an experienced Occupational Health professional.
Occupational Health Practitioners are registered practitioners and therefore work within the legal safeguards of the Data Protection Act 2018, as well as adhering to the standards set down in the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s, General Medical Council’s, and other relevant bodies’ Codes of Conduct.
Please visit the dedicated page for information about the University's staff counselling service:
Occupational Health Services
10 Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3PD
Monday - Thursday: 8.30am to 5pm
Friday: 8.30am to 4pm