How do i decide that an employee needs a referral?

An Occupational Health ‘Management Referral’ is made when there is a concern for an individual’s health at work. Whether this is for the employee’s mental or physical health. The referral is for an assessment to understand whether an employee is healthy enough to remain at work, or return to work.

An OH practitioner is able to provide advice based on information presented about the employee. From this, a report will be created on which decisions can be based. Therefore, in many cases, the quality of the report and advice is based on the initial information presented by the referee about the employee.


Reasons to make an occupational health employee referral


There are numerous reasons why an employer may feel it is appropriate to make a referral for a member of their team.

  • Has an employee been off sick for a long period of time?
  • Has an employee’s performance dropped because of a health condition or illness?
  • Is an employee calling in sick more regularly than before?
  • Is an employee going through a traumatic time?
  • Is an employee returning to work after a sickness or an accident?


Employers have a duty of care to their employees. Even if the sickness or condition didn’t originate because of work. You have a duty of care to protect the well-being and health of your employees. 

If it becomes apparent that an individual’s health is affecting their performance and abilities at work. Or, if their job and their role are affecting their health, then an employee referral is appropriate. 


Medical vs Management issue


It’s important to note that an OH referral cannot directly resolve management issues within a business. Or interpersonal relationships and work-related stress. There are various issues and topics which affect an employee’s health, but the first step is awareness.

In fact, these issues can only be resolved internally by management themselves. However, inquiries can be made to occupational health services regarding whether supportive counselling could be appropriate.


How do I make an occupational health referral?


The first thing to note is that the whole referral process is confidential. But there also needs to be honesty between both parties, the employer and the employee. This is important for ensuring that not only is the condition, or illness identified, but the effects on the employee, and how they are impacting their job, health, and well-being are addressed.

An employer should provide the occupational health team with as much information as possible about the individual and the situation. When making a management referral with Acorn, we’ll ask you lots of questions about the individual’s job, the reason for the referral, and any other related questions. These are designed to understand the situation as best as possible. And in turn, this will help our team to make suggestions on the best steps moving forward and how to support the employee.


Important points to note are:

  • What triggered the OH referral?
  • Any dates of absence and length of absences
  • Information on the employee’s job role
  • Does the employee’s role include safety-critical tasks? Or tasks that involve risk?
  • Details on if and how the employee’s performance has been affected
  • Details of any adjustments or measures already in place for the employee
  • Whether duties or responsibilities can be amended or adapted?
  • What is the desired outcome of the referral is


Acorn has a robust management referral procedure. The process includes the client completing a management referral form via our online ‘Orchid’ Portal. This is designed to give managers the opportunity to provide sufficient information about the employee. It also gives the employer an opportunity to ask questions that they would like a response to.


Employee Consent


A referral manager should explain to the employee the purpose of the referral, this should also include the questions to Occupational Health in the referral. It is very important to note that employee consent to be referred should be established BEFORE submitting the employee referral.

When discussing why the referral has been made, it’s important to put it into context. It could relate to performance at work, an existing health problem and support that is needed, or a recent rise in absences. We would also suggest showing the employee the referral submission before this is sent, just to provide them with full prior knowledge of points raised and concerns.

Our OH practitioners will reiterate the information given in the referral to the employee at the beginning of the consultation to ensure they have informed consent in order to proceed. We believe that transparency and honesty about the referral are vital. This not only ensures that no money is lost, but that both parties understand the reasons for the referral and also reduces the risks arising later on.


Employee details


When Acorn is approached for an employee referral, we use ‘three-factor authentication’ to ensure we verify the employee’s identity. It is important that this information is correct, and if found to be inaccurate, the referral process could be stopped. In order to do this, the following information about the employee is required.


  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Home address & postcode
  • Contact number
  • Personal email address


What is the outcome of the occupational health referral assessment?


Our management referral report will provide on whether the person should remain at work, or should return to work, safely. The report will ensure that legal implications are considered. Including whether the individual’s medical condition is likely to be covered under the disability provision of the Equality Act 2010. Plus whether any reasonable adjustments are recommended.


Who is an OH referral carried out by?


At Acorn OH, our referral assessments are carried out by trained, and professional specialists. All of which have the skills and knowledge to carry out these personal health assessments.


But in most cases, our management referrals are carried out by our:

  • Occupational health physicians
  • Occupational health advisors
  • Occupational Therapists


Contact Us


If you’d like more information about our management referral process here at Acorn, then please get in touch with a member of our team. Visit our FAQs page, call us at 01260 277797, or email us at

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.