What is occupational health?

Occupational health (OH) is about how your work affects your health and about making sure you are fit for the work that you do. This includes:

  • sudden injury at work, e.g. through a slip or trip; and
  • long-term exposure to hazards, such as repetitive strain injury (RSI) or stress.

OH also involves preventing work-related diseases, through safe working practices, ergonomics, health surveillance of the workforce and sickness absence management.

Good practice is about adapting the work to the worker and not the other way round.

Online service NHS Health for Work has an interactive map showing the location of your employer’s nearest NHS occupational health provider and outlining the services they can provide to your employer.

There is also a government-funded Fit for Work scheme for employers needing to find OH provision for their staff. All employers and GPs in England and Wales can now refer employees who have been off work for four weeks or more for a free Fit for Work referral. But you as the employee must give your consent before a referral to the Fit for Work service can be made, whether the referral is made by your GP or employer. 

Fit for Work Scotland accepts referrals by phone on 0800 019 2211.

The TUC has produced a guide for union reps on Fit for Work Referrals.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.