Occupational Health

04 January 2021

As an employer, you can ensure your staff work safely through promoting occupational health. Good health is good for business. And healthy workplaces tend to provide better financial returns.

But failure to fulfil occupational health duties can lead to a variety of issues. Like a rise in work absences, negligence fines, and reputational damage.

In this guide, we'll discuss what occupational health is, the different types of occupational health services, and what employers should be doing in this regard.

What is occupational health?

Occupational health (OH) are services and processes which focus on staff physical and mental, wellbeing.

These services maintain employee wellness through preventing ill-health. It is also used for developing solutions to help workers with ongoing health issues.

Different types of occupational health services

Choosing OH services will depend on your particular business context. Some different types of OH services to choose from include:

  • Assuring compliance with health & safety regulations and support the maintenance of a healthy workforce.
  • Providing pre-employment health assessments.
  • Providing advice on ergonomic issues and workplace design.
  • Minimising workers' health risks in the workplace.
  • Providing clinical services in the initial stages of ill-health.
  • Offering independent and professional diagnosis, prognosis and advice for staff unable to work due to health issues.
  • Offering organisational wide steps for reducing sickness absence.

What are the benefits of occupational health services at work?

The main benefits of an OH service is divided into two categories. 1). Prevention of work-related injuries; and 2). helping injured workers return to, or remain at, work.

In both instances, occupational health services may be adapted to your company's specific requirements.

This will ensure that any health issues that arise at work are removed or minimised, helping you save money and maintain a healthy workforce.

Many businesses use these services to monitor the occupational health in their organisation. As well as help prevent health issues and injuries.

In general, occupational health services could be used to:

  • Help companies implement appropriate health & safety measures to reduce injuries or ill-health at work.
  • Support the mental wellbeing of employees, for instance by providing advice and counselling services.
  • Support companies with the control of disabilities at work.
  • Help companies manage working conditions after a short or long-term illness.
  • Carry out statutory health surveillance when workers get exposed to noise or hazardous substances.
  • Provide medical services where working conditions involve high-risk activities.

Measuring blood pressure.

What are the UK laws on regarding occupational health?

Businesses have a responsibility to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees.

While employers are not responsible for their general health, they do have a moral and legal duty for each staff member's occupational health. This means managers must ensure their employees are not injured or ill at work.

Under the Equality Act 2010, if an employee has a disability, they are entitled to certain workplace assistance.

These are called reasonable adjustments and help employees complete work safely. These adjustments can be temporary or permanent changes depending on the nature of the job or workplace.

Reasonable adjustments must be provided when:

  • You are aware, or may reasonably be expected to be aware, that an employee or job candidate has disabilities.
  • A disabled employee or job applicant requests adjustments.
  • An employee with a disability has trouble performing their job duties.
  • An employee's absence, sickness, or delay in returning to work is caused by or related to their disability.

An employer is not strictly required to offer an occupational health assessment for ill or disabled workers. However, the advice of occupational health professionals can be essential when deciding how to handle a capability issue.

An occupational health specialist's professional opinion can also be crucial in the context of any employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal or unlawful disability discrimination. This is especially true during a long period of sick leave that stops a person from returning to work.

What happens if you neglect occupational health services?

Failure to fulfil your responsibility for protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of your staff can result in many issues.

Your staff is one of your most valuable assets and is critical to overall productivity and profitability. Increased sickness absence imposes the cost of temporary staffing and even recruitment in cases where you have staff unable to return to work.

By implementing appropriate occupational health services, you can keep your employees safe and healthy. In this way, you can reduce sickness absence and manage any threats that could cause ill-health at work.

You can also reduce the risk of being sued for ill-health capability dismissal or failing to comply with the Equality Act.

A man working on a laptop.

How to manage occupational health in your workplace

Employers should consider occupational health services for their employees’ welfare, as well as their business’s.

You should have a OH policy which documents health, safety, and wellbeing rules. Be mindful to keep away from discrimination when setting out these policies.

Occupational health experts can also provide support to organisations. They offer advice on carrying out work duties safely–helping you create a healthy workplace. For example, experts could suggest a series of medical checks before granting ill-health retirement.

The following items should be included in your occupational health policy:

  • When occupational health assessments can be made.
  • How, where, and by whom the assessments will be done.
  • What the management and the staff need to do.
  • What the following steps in this process are.

Following an occupational health assessment, organisational wide steps must be made to support the employees. To promote your staff's health and wellbeing, you should implement an agreed-upon action plan with a reasonable timescale.

Make sure you review the employees' progress on a regular basis and make new adjustments as needed.

Choosing an OH service provider

Many factors will influence the decision to use in-house OH services or outsource to a commercial vendor. Factors such as, the nature of the work, your location, and distribution of your workforce.

As an employer, you may want to look for services accredited with the SEQOHS (Safe, Effective, Quality Occupational Health Service) scheme. This can confirm high-quality OH provision that satisfies suitable professional standards.

Accreditation is available for both in-house and commercial services; however, it's not mandatory. Providers who don't have SEQOHS are also expected by law and professional standards to deliver evidence-based care.

Get advice on occupational health from Peninsula

All employers have a duty to promote occupational health within their company and ensure that staff are working safely.

Failure to perform occupational health requirements might result in business consequences, such as a rise in work absences.

Peninsula offers 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 029 4376 and book a free consultation with one of our Health & Safety consultants.

Suggested Resources