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Are you writing for GP reports when managing absence? Here’s 5 reasons to think again

It is still general practice for HR managers to write to GPs to access information concerning an employee’s absence, especially when putting together a return to work plan. This can be an inefficient and expensive way to handle sickness and absence, not only because each report costs between £90 and £180 but also the length of time it takes for the GP to produce the required information.

There are several reasons why you should think twice about going straight to the GP:

1. The GP perspective

Any GP is going to see a period of sickness and absence from their patient’s point of view and will have little or no understanding of the processes your company or organization have in place that help a person return to work. An informed decision needs to be made from both sides of the fence for it to be valid. Getting recommendations from the GP can also tie the hands of the employer if they were hoping to find a different solution.

2. The employer perspective

Equally, if the GP offers details of a particular diagnosis, how do you as an employer react to it? HR managers may well have some medical knowledge and understand the employees condition to certain degree but what kind of support needs to be offered to someone recovering from cancer, or suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or stress related illnesses. Most often, writing to a GP will not provide much more information than the HR department had in the first place.

3. The Equalities Act

There is, of course, legislation in place for how an employer should act in circumstances where there are health issues. This can be an incredibly complex area depending on the nature of the sickness and absence and requires someone who knows the ins and outs of disability and other requirements as well as the workings of a particular company. A GP report will not cover any of this nor will they be able to give suitable guidance as to how an employer can change their workplace situation beyond the basics to make circumstances easier for a return.

4. Is your business secure?

It’s a question that many companies don’t address. When a GP report is asked for, then the information needs to be securely guarded, which means only a limited number of people should be able to see it. HR departments are often not aware of this and may inadvertently share sensitive information to line managers and others when it is not appropriate.

5. Bringing in an occupational health team

Rather than dealing with limited GP reports it is far better to engage the services of a qualified occupational health professional who will be able to look at both sides of any sickness and absence issue. They can act independently to come to a more focused and fair resolution that makes sense for both the parties involved. It can also be less costly and quicker than waiting for a GP report to come through that will only provide a limited amount of guidance.

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