occupational health review

Hi all,


Due to work place difficulties I will be attending an occupational health review soon. I know the issues I have with my return to fitness, and I can appreciate the position my employer is in (ie a staff member not full functioning)… Has anyone experience of an occ health review, and what it may entail ? How to get the best results for an effective return to work ?


Thanks in anticipation


Hi Lexilou


Whilst waiting for replies you might find it helpful to call our Helpline to talk things over.  They’ll be able to offer practical information as well as emotional support.  The opening times are 9-5 on weekdays and 10-2 on Saturdays.  The free phone number is 0808 800 6000.


I’ve also attached a link to the Macmillan site information about ‘Cancer and Work’ as it may help macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Workandcancer/Workandcancer.aspx


Best wishes

June, moderator

Hi I work for the nhs and had an occi health review. The whole experience has been very positive. I saw a very sympathetic and supportive doctor, who really understood the psychological aspects of bc. She made me feel very much cared for. I did a phased return, in agreement with my line manager. The review just consisted of a long chat, with a plan at the end. The doctor kept me informed of the plan as time went on.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for more
Good luck

Hi Zuleika,
If you don’t mind sharing it would be really good to know just how phased your return was re number of hours and how many days stepping up for how long.
The OH the company I work for seemed to be under pressure to suggest a rapid phased return…for me by end of wk2 8 hour day plus 2 hour commute on top. I’ve been recovering from the bc, plus mega low iron and anaemia, with some other emotional factors from people in partners family passing away from cancer after some very unpleasant and difficult symptoms/impacts.

OH are employed by HR…hence while they are supposed to be independent they are evidently often under pressure from HR re just how flexible they can be.
Where I work the OH report suggests hours etc the employer may want to consider. HR and my line manager then tussle it out re whether to be any more flexible. At the end of the day they need to be re legislation but just how much and for how long is bit of a grey area, plus how they approach pay during this period. It helps to make sure your line manager understands your condition. I found that some people get confused thinking phased return is “getting you back into a routine”. I found this line incredibly annoying and patronising considering I tried to retain a routine through recovery…and the phased return for me and I’m sure most other cancer patients is about the ongoing or reducing side affects of treatment causing fatigue… Anyone suggesting loss of routine should try daily radio for however long and say there’s no routine!
If what’s suggested is too rapid, then consider showing the hours/OH report to your GP and get a fit note which clarifies too fast etc.
It seems some people experience sense through this and some are expected to recover to turbo charged within 2 week to 8 hr days, 10 with commute, much of the commute standing. I wouldn’t mind so much if I hadn’t covered a major resource issue for ages at no extra pay for them…and I do sometimes wonder how much that may have contributed to getting or speed of growth of bc in the first place!

Hi lexilou
My phased return was over 6 weeks. I normally work 28 hours, so I started doing 2 short days, of 4 hours and built up gradually. My normal working day is 8-5, with a one hour drive. At first I thought this plan was a bit over the top but I got very tired. I’m a nurse practitioner and found the emotional side of my job very draining. My line manager was very supportive of my phased return. I feel like I’ve been very fortunate with my employers. But on the other hand, I’ve given 32 years service to the NHS with barely any sick time until my bc diagnosis in May 2013.
Best wishes to you x

Hi Bsal,
Also consider seeing your GP if once you’ve seen OH and adjusted return, you are still feeling too tired.
My GP was adamant the rapid return suggested for me could really damage my health.GP’s can write fit notes suggesting max hours during periods of the return.
Hope your OH is helpful.

Hi all,
Pleased my comments helped some of you.
Have to confess I am now having bit of a nightmare, OH suggested return to 8hr days with 2 hours travel after 2 weeks. 2 x GP fit notes saying that’s too fast and employer is saying they won’t accept the fit notes and will need to send these on to OH and see that they say. I asked what would happen if OH disagree with GP and was very unreassuringly told I don’t know’. Great, I’m only recovering from cancer…no biggi…(or have I just dreamt it all…maybe it was just an ingrowing toenail?)
Oh and the review mtg was reschuled at the last min so my line manager couldn’t be present…beyond the time of agreed hours which meant i had to stand for an hour on crowded trains. And had to tell yet another male stuff others are already aware of.
Oh and no mtg room had been booked so we were expelled from the room, and walked through an open plan office in obvious distress to find a vacant mtg room.
Employer - ‘we cant afford for this to continue’ - me thinking…This is only my 6th day back after cancer…not a broken arm, measles or something.
Sorry to moan, 2 friends have been great helping reassemble me on Friday eve and Saturday after such an unbelievably bad experience.
Spent weekend drafting emails since feel intimidated and that I need to protect myself. Hardly sleeping, don’t need this, I’ve been through enough and want to get back to normal.
a rather choppy sea with this…

Thanks Lexilou,
Will def look at the link.

I’m grateful for this thread and do sorry seabreeze - what on ordeal. I’m 8 day post bi lateral and second emergency op and got email from hr today asking how I was - I know it’s a keeping in touch thing but it threw me - especially as they were keen to refer me to oh before my operation - I said there was no point as o wouldn’t have my treatment plan until post op . I know they only like phases retirn over 2 weeks and an soooo worried about going back to work at the moment - wishing no one knew about my cancer as think they will all v assessing me physically. I’m sure my manager will be in the camp of let’s get you working fte ASAP and am not sure I’ll have any strength with this - good to have some links and advice here’s sarah

If my experience is anything to go by hold off mtg OH until you feel ready to go back. My employers OH seems v much commissioned by them and not at all independent.

All - thank you for yr supportive emails - means alot.
Unfortunately not a member of a union in this job. Though if this goes on much longer I will get a lawyer to write a stern letter based on documentation I’m filing.
Spent weekend writing factual notes of different elements from the mtg and how it made me feel. Quite sharply worded re the feelings. They were all scampering around…due to have another review mtg tomorrow…can’t I just get on with my job and recovering.
Saw GP who was gobsmacked that they had refused to accept fit notes from 2 different gps saying return is too fast. She said the stress couldseriously damage my recovery.
The crazy thing is the man who was most difficult last week thinks he’s fab at communications. the other man is from hr.
Got 2 feeble half baked not quite an apology. …one said apolpogies if i was upset!..i was in tears for the best part of 50 mins of a 1 hour mtg from hell on my 6th day back after cancer, there is no question about if I was upset.
The implied link between duration I have to take preventative med and “we can’t afford for this to go on” was diabolical.
My employer claims to hold health and safety as the utmost priority…and respect as a high quality running through everything we do. Evidently that excludes someone who has life threatening cancer!
I had the highest level of performance too all my time there before getting bc.
If mens balls were on their shoulders and they went through what we do, male staff wouldn’t be so bad surely?

Hi seabreeze - I’m fuming for you!!! Before I left for bc leave o was called to a meeting and told they would wait to restructure until I came back " don’t worry hr won’t let me do anything to you while you are off sick!!" - that was said to me by my female manger as she put her cost on to leave - I was there until 6:45 ( was supposed to leave at half four that day) because she had also made me attend a three hour handover meeting ( it wasn’t necessary) - a colleague was also At the meeting and emailed me afterwards to say they were so sorry I had has to go through it - the meeting included questions about who would be doing my fit for work note - I lost it a bit at that point and said ‘probably someone at the hospital who will check on me after they’ve removed my boobs’ - same person has also made flippant comments like " I’d love to get rid of my boobs?" - really? ~ I’ve been dumbstruck on so much of the insensitivity. It’s good advice to wait for the oh meeting and after this thread I am going to contact Macmillan also. I am fully aware oh is in the interests of the company - I have already decided that I will need to explain about frequent desk breaks a forever- because of lymphodema risk - I’m also going to ask for a more supportive chair. There are some good managers out there who really care etc let’s hope they enlighten the others xx
I had a friend who got a solicitors to write to her employer about a different matter - she said it was the best £300 she had ever spent xx

Ps I’m sure it won’t come to it but it’s also worth checking house insurance for legal cover - I’ve got a free will writing service with mine which I didnt know about until they emailed me the other day x s

Hi Jets and Lexilou,
Thank you both, what a week!
Had meeting at more senior level and ran through all my notes of the review meeting from hell. Read out clauses from their own company policies they have been failing to meet.

Told them they had failed to ensure reasonable adjustments and specifically what and how, thereby failing to meet disability legislation.

Asked what medical qualifications the chap from hr had to suggest i should work more hours/days than advised by GP. Off course none.

2 hours later emerged feeling like i had conveyed the point. I also have a fair record file if they push me much further ready for a legal letter.

It is just so completely and utterly wrong that any company does this and lets uninformed senior male managers wade in making totally unjustified presumptions and asking for personal info beyond the realms…so wrong…
If HR don’t make that clear to him I may yet be tootling to a solicitor…i feel the need to set this straight so that no other woman who may be diagnosed here has to be put through such stress inducing and health risking, bullying behaviour.

Shocking. Going to try to relax this eve…I’ve now had nearly 3 months of poor communication from them, misinformation and then this **** to cap it all.

Even if you are cream crackered from treatment make sure you do a short note of any key failures or concerns as you go along.

Hoping for a lull in the storm (or even just plain sailing but I think that may be one wish too far - one day!)

Thank you…it’s that kind of place that I took myself too by visualisation when I needed to calm myself when diagnosed…thank you for reminding me…I shall take myself for a trip to the coast…there in 5mins in my minds eye ?

Hi seabreeze
Well done you! Of course I am still fuming for you but hope they have got the message. I expect to be off work for at least 8 weeks - longer depending on my oncology appt in a couple if weeks. It is totally staggering that people have so little compassion - I think it’s because there is this huge expectation that people ‘beat’ cancer now a days and we should all be running marathons and functioning normally straight away. The mental and physical reaction is hugely underestimated . That said there was a lady at my workplace who came back after bc last year and then left after a couple of months - at the time I couldn’t understand it. But now - oh now I do!
I also have a mental beach - use it frequently xx

Hi all,


I am now 2 months post occupational health review. I have to say the Practitioner i saw was very thorough, listened hard to all I was saying, and by the end of the meeting had formulated a plan which he wrote & emailled to my workplace.


In all honesty - I felt it was challenging, given the fatigue I was experiencing, but I was and remain eager to resume *normal* life so agreed to trial it. Essentially he recommended increasing by half a day each month - so I am now currently up to 5 half days. He even recommended the timings of my work day - I ahve always been able to get up, afternoons were a real fatigue hit for me.


Work have implemented most of the recommendations - formal meetings have not happened & seem to attract resistance. If I were able to keep following this plan I would be back in full time work (with additional accomodation of 10min time out slot) by the end of June.


I will be having symmetrisation surgery in April - so this may slightly delay that goal.


Good luck to anyone else facing this situation. The practitioner I saw certainly listened to all I had to say. Did ask pertinent questions - such as - Did I want to return to work? For me - Yes, I love my job. I am coping with the work load (mostly), and remain very tired & recovering in the times I am not there.


Best wishes


LL  xx

Hi Jets, Lexilou, Kess and anyone else out there going through this,
I’ve been doing 4 v slightly shorter than normal days a week…(started back initially on 3x 5.5 hr days). I find I am so tired after work that I am struggling to have much (almost any) contact with friends/support. The tiredness is making it harder for me to see beyond emotional dips (such as the whole no children thing re tamoxifen given age).
Have been persevering hoping will get better with time…

After it had been agreed line manager could agree increases in hours etc (without high honchos in waders) out of the blue I received a message from hr wanting confirmation that I’m back to full 8 hr days. I have 2 hrs travel on top, which is standing if in rush hour. Talk about pressure.

6 days after my initial return to work in early 2015 2 members of staff told me they couldn’t accept 2 GP fit notes saying return too fast since"it caused them a problem" because it didn’t tie up with OH’s error riddled report saying back to 8 hr days plus 2 hrs travel after 2 weeks! GP suggested I see my onc and in the meanwhile things seemed to improve at work albeit me still feeling stressed following what felt like a very real case of bullying after only a few days back.

Saw my onc recently who was extremely surprised company behaving so. Discussed combination of anaemia and recovering from radio etc and she said it would considerably extend recovery time and offered to write a letter. I am just in disbelief that I am now being made to feel pressurised to be back doing 32plus hours over 4 days (min 40 hr wk but using annual leave for one of those days) when I am recovering and when, if anything, I felt pushed by OH/co to return before/much faster than the onc would have recommended. I have always worked hard and done high quality work for this company which makes it even more hurtful/upsetting to be treated so.

I am feeling that it’s a massive battle for reasonableness, its extremely stressful constantly wondering when the jaws and claws of hr are going to come back and attack again…this is almost as bad as the actual cancer in terms of stress.

oh - and they recently did a presentation on cancer to staff, talking about need for support blah blah…I’m yet to see any! The company thinks it holds health and safety so highly…does this sound like supportive re health?! So another night contemplating whether I need to finalise my draft complaint letter and take it to a solicitor…with a twin pronged approach with a letter from the onc.
ok…will stop ranting…
choppy seas…
Seabreeze x ps - Lexilou - pleased things sound like they’ve got better re yr return and hope the rebalancing surgery goes well