This month in Ask OH, an experienced OH adviser answers questions on supporting employees during redundancies and finding a consistent way to write OH reports.
Our employer is in the process of making redundancies and I have a pack to support people. What do you think are useful elements to include?
I think this is a great idea by HR as it offers, via occupational health, some useful signposting to avoid increasing the risk of cases of stress in the workplace. It is never going to be possible to prevent people worrying but, by offering employees ideas of when and where they can gain support, it seems a sensible starting point.
I would start by assessing what information you already have in place. Do you have an employee assistance programme (EAP)? Or a free at point of entry health scheme? These tend to offer legal, financial and emotional advice. Some will be able to offer you a link to printable PDF documents that can either be emailed to all employees at risk or left on a notice board/posted up in the canteen. It depends on your line of business and the approach the company wants to adopt.
Why not consider what you can offer realistically then discuss with HR and allow them to lead on the content? You might want to offer employees a self-referral on a one-to-one basis if you have the capacity to do so (depending on the numbers). That way you can try to give each person a bespoke service.
An agency I would consider if no EAP is available is the Citizens Advice Bureau, which offers guidance on supporting staff facing redundancy. Money expert Martin Lewis wrote a fantastic document this year on mental health that gives great advice on managing money issues and reducing the risk of related mental health problems and another that specifically focuses on redundancy. It is certainly better to be prepared than to have your head in the sand. The article has lots of links on money-related issues as well as legal help.
Without knowing numbers and resources it is hard to give a clearer response than this, but I hope that this helps. However, a word of caution: do not allow yourself to become a drop-in centre or tea and sympathy room. Make sure there is a clear rationale for your process that can show a balanced support for both the employee and the business. You are there to advise and signpost according to an identified need.
I have seen reports by other OH advisers and noticed we can be very different in approach. I would like to find a consistent way to deliver my reports in a clear and effective way. Can you advise?
I sympathise with you as, although we all have varying experiences and have come from a variety of
nursing backgrounds, and from courses for OH nurses at different levels (certificate, diploma, first degree, master’s, for example), some courses are distancelearning based and some are special community public health nursing courses where OH is only one of the nursing specialties covered. Courses vary greatly on what they place emphasis on.
Unless you choose to research and write an assignment or thesis on this subject, you may or may not even cover it in your study. After all, OH is a broad subject. Therefore, although you may end up with some information in theory, how you adapt that to your practice and environment can be open to interpretation.
I consider that while OH nurses must adopt their reports to their particular business setting and slight variations are inevitable, there should be some consistency in how the reports are structured. I have seen some shocking reports and some brilliant ones as well. The article Guidance on occupational health case report writing by Lara Carmel, published in Occupational Health and available online, gives a clear process and rationale. There are also some good references at the end of the article.
It is always good to audit our processes and benchmark ourselves against other practitioners, but we should also not forget to ensure we meet the needs of the business that we support. A “one-stop shop” that works in one workplace is not always going to work in another. I think that the acronym KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is great as this ensures that the reader of the report can clearly understand what you are saying. Until OH has a central governing body, I think the issue of report writing will continue to be debated.