The Relationship Between HR and Occupational Health

Human Resources (HR) and Occupational Health (OH) are two essential functions within an organisation that work together to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of employees. While HR is responsible for managing the overall employee experience, including recruitment, training, and employee relations, OH focuses specifically on the impact of work on health and health on work. This raises the question: Can HR overrule the recommendations made by occupational health professionals?

The Role of Occupational Health

Occupational health professionals, such as those at London City Healthcare, are qualified healthcare practitioners who specialise in the relationship between work and health. Their primary duties include:

  1. Health Assessments – OH providers conduct assessments to determine an employee’s fitness for work, identify any health risks associated with their job role, and make recommendations for reasonable adjustments or support.
  2. Advice and Guidance – They offer expert advice to employers on managing health-related issues in the workplace, promoting employee wellbeing, and ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations.
  3. Absence Management – OH professionals play a crucial role in managing sickness absence by assessing an employee’s fitness to return to work and recommending appropriate support or phased return plans.

HR’s Responsibility Towards Occupational Health Recommendations

While HR is not legally bound to follow every recommendation made by occupational health, they do have a responsibility to carefully consider and act upon the advice provided. Here’s why:

  1. Legal Obligations – Employers have a legal duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Ignoring OH recommendations could put the organisation at risk of breaching these legal obligations.
  2. Duty of Care – Employers have a moral and ethical duty of care towards their employees. Disregarding OH advice could be seen as a failure to prioritise employee wellbeing and lead to a breakdown in trust.
  3. Risks of Discrimination – Under the Equality Act 2010, employers must make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. If HR overrules OH recommendations for adjustments without justification, they could face discrimination claims.

When HR May Challenge Occupational Health Recommendations

While HR should give serious consideration to OH advice, there may be situations where they have valid reasons to challenge or seek clarification on the recommendations:

  1. Business Practicality – If OH recommends adjustments that are not feasible or practical for the business to implement, HR may need to discuss alternative solutions with the OH provider.
  2. Inconsistency with Company Policies – If OH advice conflicts with existing company policies or procedures, HR may need to address these inconsistencies and find a workable solution.
  3. Insufficient Information – If HR feels that the OH report lacks sufficient detail or justification for the recommendations made, they may request further clarification or a more comprehensive assessment.

Collaboration is Key

Ultimately, the most effective approach is for HR and OH to work collaboratively, maintaining open lines of communication and striving to find solutions that balance the needs of the employee with the requirements of the business. By fostering a strong partnership, HR and OH can ensure the best outcomes for both individual employees and the organisation as a whole.


In most cases, HR should not overrule occupational health recommendations without careful consideration and justification. By respecting the expertise of OH professionals and working together to implement their advice, HR can demonstrate a commitment to employee wellbeing, meet legal obligations, and create a healthier, more productive workplace.

If you would like to learn more about how occupational health and HR can work together effectively, contact London City Healthcare on 0207 236 3334 or via our contact page.

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr Amun Kalia

Dr. Kalia helps to run the Occupational Medicine provision for London City healthcare and is a company doctor for one of the largest multinational companies based in the UK.

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