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Sickness Absence Policy
Appendix H: Occupational Health Service and Fit for Work
1. UCL is committed to supporting employees in their return to work following absence due to ill health. There is good evidence that prolonged sickness absence can lead to poor health outcomes for individuals and their families.
UCL Occupational Health Service (OHS)
2. OHS provides a professional, objective opinion on an individual's ability to work and/or the requirement for adjustments.
3. UCL OHS can provide advice regarding:
- the identification of a health problem that may impact on an individual's performance at work
- the potential effects of a health problem on current and future performance and attendance
- consideration of temporary or permanent adjustments to the workplace or tasks that would assist in reducing the adverse effects of the health problem on attendance and performance
- timescales for expected improvement (and return to work if currently absent)
- whether an employee may be fit to return to work in some capacity, even though the Fit Note states 'unfit for work' for SSP purposes
- the suggested workplace adjustments on a Fit-Note or Fit for Work Return To Work Plan
- whether the provisions for disability equality under the Equality Act 2010 may apply and relevant disability related adjustments
- proposals for case management or a rehabilitation programme where appropriate
- an opinion on suitability for medical redeployment
- an opinion on consideration for ill-health/incapacity early retirement (subject to pension scheme rules)
4. Early referral for Occupational Health advice is important to ensure the best outcome for the individual and for UCL. In particular, referral during the first 2 weeks of absence for mental health, musculoskeletal disorders or stress, may reduce the risk of long-term absence.
5. If a manager has any concerns about the effects of work on an employee's health, or the effects of a health problem on an employee's attendance or performance, a management referral to UCL OHS should be considered.
6. Occupational Health referral should also be considered during any stage of the Formal Procedures for Managing Sickness Absence at Appendix E.
7. Managers should discuss the referral with the employee, giving reasons for the referral, and encourage the open exchange of information. OH Consultations will not usually be offered without confirmation that this discussion has taken place. Similarly, if an employee believes that his/her condition may be related to an activity at work, they should inform their manager.
8. Occupational health advice given to the manager will not contain confidential medical detail, but will focus on;
- the effects of a health problem on an employee's work attendance or performance
- the effects of work on an employee's health
- options for supporting an employee to return to, or remain in work
9. If an individual does not attend their UCL OHS appointment, a further appointment will be made. If an appointment is missed for a second time, the manager will arrange a review meeting with the individual at which a representative of the HR Advisory Services Team may be present. Any decisions made at this meeting regarding the on-going management of the individual's absence will be based on the information available at that time and in the absence of advice that would have been available had the employee attended the UCL OHS appointment as requested.
Fit for Work Service (FFW)
10. If an employee has been absent, or is likely to be absent, for 4 weeks or more they may be referred to the Government’s Fit for Work Service by their GP. FFW is complementary to, but does not replace UCL OHS advice in the management of sickness absence casework.
11. FFW may provide a Return to Work Plan (RTWP) and this will remove the need for a fit-note.
12. If a RTWP is provided and the recommendations are straightforward then a Manager may choose to implement the recommendations directly. However it may still be advisable to refer the individual to UCL OHS as they have a more in-depth understanding of the UCL workplace and will be able to identify clusters of work-related ill health. The decision on whether to progress interventions recommended in the RTWP lies with the employer, employee and GP, depending on the nature of the recommendation. It is not mandatory to progress the recommended interventions unless there is something that might be regarded as required to meet an employer’s obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
13. Managers will retain responsibility for managing any employee’s absence and to take appropriate action, with advice, if an employee fails to engage with any recommendations or return to work where it is indicated they are fit to do so.