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Employee consent and occupational health

The occupational health employee consultation process requires informed consent to be obtained from the employee at various stages to ensure that the individual is fully aware of the reasons for engaging with the occupational health clinician.


“Consent is a process whereby an individual having been provided with full information and understanding the consequences, agrees to a proposed action.”  


Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM)

Ethics Guidance for Occupational Health Practice (2018)  


Within occupational health, consent is first obtained by the employer when speaking with their employee about the reason for the initial OH referral, the line manager or HR representative should ensure that the employee consent to the sharing of their personal information including personal details and any supplemental information which may be held by the employer i.e. minutes from welfare meetings etc. with occupational health as part of the management referral to comply with GDPR.


Consent is obtained for a second time when the clinician undertaking the consultation introduces themselves to the employee (either during a face to face or remote, telephone or video call consultation) and where the clinician will explain their role and request consent to engage in the consultation to discuss their health and work and make private clinical notes about their case.


As the consultation is drawing to a close, the clinician will then request consent to advise the employee what personal information (relating to their health and work, including any symptoms being experienced or diagnoses received) that they feel is appropriate to share with their employer. The clinician will also ask whether the individual would like to see the OH report prior to it being sent to their employer to ensure that there are “no surprises” for the employee contained within the report.


It is important to note that the employee is entitled to withdraw consent for the report to be released to their employer at any stage including once they have seen the OH report if they so wish. Further information about consent relating to this matter can be found in the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) Ethics Guidance for Occupational Health Practice – 8th Edition now available news (fom.ac.uk)


Employers should be aware that obtaining consent is a continuous process, that it is requested for a specific purpose, and that it may be withdrawn at any stage (as detailed above). Even where the employer has paid for an OH consultation the employee is under no obligation to provide consent for the report to be released to the employer, furthermore any form of coercion or other form of pressure or consequence being applied to the employee to obtain a copy of the OH report may be viewed as unethical and lead to employer upon to legal challenge.


In situations where an employee does not consent for a report to be released to the employer, the employer should, in the first instance, have a frank and open discussion with the employee and explain that without the release of the report the employer will need to make any decisions relating to their employment without the benefit of a medical opinion and this may not be in their best interest.


If you wish to discuss the issue of consent and occupational health with one of our clinicians, please contact us here or call us on 01792 321010

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