As an Occupational Health Nurse for over 30 years I am passionate about improving occupational health in the workplace. Much of the advice I provide can be easily learnt, understood and implemented by any manager. Many employees with a health condition also develop mental health issues due to the way they are managed at work and this is often when they are referred to me.
There are the 3 key areas which must be up to date to ensure that the way you manage employee health at work is both fair, equitable and good for your business.
- At commencement of employment.
How do you manage this process? Do you send out a health questionnaire and then decide whether, based on the health information received, you will issue a contract?
Following the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, asking health questions at pre-employment or post job offer is no longer recommended. With the forthcoming GDPR changes to consent, I would argue that this approach is definitely not going to be best practice.
All you need to do is send out the following 4 questions with the job offer: –
- Do you have any health/medical problems or physical limitations which may affect your ability to carry out this role?
- Have you ever had any health/medical problems which may have been made worse by work?
- Are you having or waiting for any investigations/tests or on any long term prescribed medication (excluding contraception)?
- Do you need any special adjustments to allow you to undertake this role?
You are not trying to evaluate any medical condition, but you need to establish if any reasonable adjustments are needed and whether the adjustment is something you can accommodate in your business. It may be that you will need advice from Occupational Health, but generally you should be able to discuss adjustments directly with the new joiner.
- Does your Absence Policy advise how disability related absences will be managed?
Over the years, it has become clear to me that many organisations have absence policies which discipline employees for being off sick with a medical condition. This is my opinion, is wrong. You cannot punish someone for having a medical condition which affects their ability to come to work.
A referral to Occupational Health will provide you with information on what adjustments will be helpful in maximising attendance at work despite a medical condition. Many of us have medical conditions and so learning about how to manage them at work is good for any business. Reasonable adjustments may include time off for medical appointments or a change in working hours or even flexible working.
To me, it is fundamentally discriminatory to manage an employee who may be likely to fall under the disability provision of the Equality Act in the same way as an employee who does not have a medical condition. It is particularly important to consider mental health conditions fairly.
- Introduce the stress risk assessment into your business.
Early identification of mental health issues in the workplace is the key to ensuring they are managed appropriately. Early, means before symptoms develop into a health issue. The stress risk assessment should be part of every team meeting, appraisal and used at every opportunity to capture information which may develop into a ‘red flag’ if not addressed.
I have modified the stress risk assessment used by the HSE and you can do that too. I am happy to share mine. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Training Managers to have conversations around the stress risk assessments is helpful too.
I regularly work with businesses to implement these 3 areas. Contact me if you would like to discuss working with me on email@example.com