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Communicating with occupational health clinicians, if your first language is not English

As an occupational health (OH) provider Insight Workplace Health (IWH) recognise that not all clients are fluent in English and therefore may struggle with fully engaging in the occupational health process.

In an ideal world, IWH would like to be able to provide all those who require assistance with communicating with a suitable interpreter. Unfortunately utilising an interpreter to assist with your occupational health consultation will incur additional costs which will need to be borne by your employer, as an advisory service we are unable to insist that this is provided by them.

However, Insight Workplace Health are actively working with employers and seeking ways in which we can better support both employers and employees in communicating effectively with staff who have limited proficiency in English.


Interpretation or translation:

A translator works with written content, transferring it from one language to another, whereas an interpreter works with spoken content.

Interpreters generally translate back and forth between two parties, but may also work with visual and tactile material, such as British sign language and braille.


Insight Workplace Health will be making some minor changes to the management referral forms in the coming weeks to help identify where limited English proficiency may impact upon a client being able to communicate with the clinician, enabling us to take action to improve the provision of occupational health support in a pragmatic way.

As a result, where occupational health is advised about a potential language barrier in advance (see above) then we will insist that additional time is allowed for the consultation process (normally a double appointment).

Where an employer declines the services of an interpreter or where an interpreter with the required language skills is not available, then Insight Workplace Health will encourage clinicians to utilise phone-based Apps to enable occupational health consultations to go ahead using a risk-based approach to establish essential information.

Should it be deemed that an interpreter must be provided this will be advised within the occupational health report and a further appointment should then be booked as required.

It is important to note that it is not appropriate to utilise those under the age of 18 to interpret for a relative in any capacity, except where NOT doing so may result in potential greater harm to the individual, this is unlikely to occur in MOST occupational health scenarios.

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