This blog does not constitute legal advice
The Equality Act 2010 changed the law so that employers are usually obliged to wait until after they have made a job offer to ask about absences and other health related information. Nevertheless, when someone discloses a disability or other health issue that may affect the performance of their duties or may require that adjustments are made, occupational health providers will usually be involved. In a former life, as a HR consultant, I talked to or met with 6 occupational health doctors and nurses. As an employee, I’ve been referred to a further 6 to discuss my own health and disabilities. Having experienced both sides of this, I thought it would be helpful to put together some advice for others doing the same.
Filling in the health form:
- Answer the questions put there honestly
- If your answer doesn’t neatly fit into one box or the other write a short note
- Send it back directly to the occupational health provider if that is an option
- If you have previous occupational health reports or access to work reports that detail adjustments that you need, send those in too.
Preparing to see the doctor
- Make a list of any health conditions or impairments that you have – even if they weren’t on the initial form
- Decide which of these you want to disclose.
- Make a list of the medications that you take (you don’t need to hand this over, but you could refer to it if they ask for this information)
- Make a list of the potential impacts of your medical conditions, impairments or disabilities on your new job
- Make copies of previous occupational health reports and access to work reports to take with you
- Think about whether you need or want any adjustments to your work environment – if there are, think about how these link to your health conditions or impairments.
- Find a friend/therapist/partner and talk through the link between your health condition or impairment and the adjustments you need. This should help you to clarify the information you need to share and to feel more confident about the link between your health/impairment and the adjustments that you need.
- Lots of people find this kind of appointment stressful, take care of yourself and ensure you have support around to call on if you need it.
- You are entitled to see the report before it is sent to your employer. Always ask for the report to be sent to you first.
Seeing the doctor
- Do your best to answer questions that they ask clearly
- If you can, link the reasonable adjustments that you need to the questions that they are asking and to the impact of your medical condition, impairment or disability.
- Ask the doctor whether they can think of other adjustments that might be helpful for you – you know your medical condition better, but chances are they will know the employer and the kinds of adjustments that are easily made much better than you will.
Once you get the report
- If they have factual errors or have missed out important details point this out.
- If there is information in the report that you would prefer was kept private, say so.
- Remember, you don’t actually have to disclose the report at all, though it is usually helpful if you do.
- If they recommend contacting access to work, do so quickly.
- Be prepared to be asked to meet to discuss the contents of the report with your line manager.
Occupational Health reports are usually helpful for recommending workplace adjustments so that people can work effectively. Where recommended adjustments are not made, they can provide evidence to the employment tribunal of failure to make reasonable adjustments. While appointments with medics are stressful for most people, the pre-employment occupational health appointment is usually supportive and a way of ensuring that your new employer is providing all the support that you need.