Medical reports

Employers quite often have to request medical reports when they are dealing with long or short-term absences or an employee who has a disability.

The purpose for requesting a report can be as simple as a prognosis for a straightforward injury, an assessment of a likely return to work date. Additionally, it can provide guidance about whether an employee would be disabled, under the definition within the Equality Act, or assistance on what adjustments can be made to the role, or workplace, to assist the employee.

However, what type of reports are available to employers? There are several options, such as:

  1. The employee’s own GP
  2. The employee’s own treating medical professional (consultant, physio, psychiatrist or other professional)
  3. Occupational Health (OH) nurses or doctors.
  4. Specialist Condition groups such as National Autistic Society, Diabetes UK, British Dyslexia Association.

It is not uncommon for employers to default straight to either a GP or OH for a report but, with a little bit of thought, the decision on where to obtain a report could have hugely beneficial consequences for both the employee and the business.

The employee’s GP

GP practices are currently under an enormous amount of strain. Obtaining a report from a GP practice - while being the cheapest option at £45-£50 plus VAT - often takes a long period of time. For example, it can take eight-ten weeks for a report to be drafted and sent to an employer.

In addition, the quality of GP’s reports varies significantly. Some are detailed and understand their patient and conditions, others merely repeat what the employee has told them, or refuse to answer questions on the basis that the doctor is not an OH physician.

Furthermore, such reports sometimes do not contain enough information on the adjustments required. For example, it may recommend a phased return to work but not contain information such as how many days, or hours a week the employee should attend work, the progression back to normal hours or the overall length of time the phased return should take place over.  

The employee’s treating medical professional

This report typically costs £350-£500 depending on the type of professional consulted. While this can also take eight-ten weeks, the report can usually be of better quality and contain more useful information than a GP’s report.

This is because the consultant or specialist often understands the employee’s condition in a greater depth and has a stronger understanding of the difficulties suffered by them. Their specialist knowledge also means they tend to suggest appropriate adjustments that would assist the employee.

Occupational Health (OH) providers

The cost, timescales and quality of these reports varies significantly between providers. Some organisations may offer a quick turnaround, and report for as little as £100.

This is typically drafted by a nurse and conducted on the telephone. Often, content merely repeats symptoms and issues relayed directly by the employee.

An OH consultant or doctor can cost significantly more (up to £500 plus VAT) but will generally be face-to-face and often supplied within one week of instruction. The report tends to be more detailed and includes a physical examination of the employee.

This type of report also tends to offer more proactive and useful adjustments that should be considered, in order to help ensure employees remain at work or carry out their jobs more easily.

Specialist health organisations

Those involved in the advocacy, treatment and support of people with specific conditions often provide a report service to assist employers with employees who may need adjustments.

The range of report can be a telephone or face-to-face meeting with a doctor or specialist medical professional. There is also the option of an occupational therapist carrying out a workplace assessment – conducted by someone trained in the condition, workplace medicine and the equipment - or adjustments - that are available to help individuals with the condition.

The cost of such reports range from a basic telephone consultation or assessment at £250 plus VAT to a full-day workplace assessment at £3,000 plus VAT.

The timescale also varies depending on the organisation, but the report tends to be very detailed and contains much more practical, useful information for employers - such as which equipment to buy, the rough cost, or other steps that can be taken.


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Author: Sarah Dillon

Director, ESP Law Ltd

Sarah is a litigation expert with over 15 years’ experience. Sarah embarked on her career in employment law as an advocate for an employment law consultancy and continued as an advocate alongside being an employment law advisor for a plethora of reputable UK law firms including: DAC Beachcroft, Ward Hadaway and Richmonds Solicitors, where she was head of the employment department.