Psychological Risk Assessment

For better function at work following psychological illness


When an employee suffers psychological illness, it may have a significant impact on their ability to perform at work and can place communications with peers and supervisors under strain. The supervisor may be uncertain about the best way of offering support and the worker may be worried that they will be unable to continue to perform their usual work or to perform work to their usual standard.

Whether the onset of illness is work-related or a consequence of matters unrelated to work, the supervisor is faced with the challenge of determining how to accommodate the employee in a reasonable fashion. Often the supervisor has difficulty gaining access to factual information which might otherwise assist the process.

The aim of the Psychological Risk Assessment is to clarify how the employee’s illness is impacting on their work and to facilitate a collaborative approach to Return to Work (RTW) planning, which includes the employee, their doctor and supervisor or manager. Factual information about the employee’s condition is provided and strategies for addressing problems associated with the condition are developed. A plan for managing the workplace risks associated with the employee’s psychological illness is then developed and implemented.

Preparatory Work

In order for a Psychological Risk Assessment to operate effectively:

  • The workplace culture needs to be perceived by employees as genuinely supportive, in that it measures and rewards behaviours that show people matter i.e. That it does not only measure and reward core business performance targets such as financial targets, call times etc
  • Relevant workplace procedures (E.g.: Sick leave/ Unplanned Leave Policy/ RTW following an Extended Period of Illness) need to be developed and publicised within the workforce.
  • The immediate manager needs to have the skills to open up a difficult conversation with the employee. The manager will need to explain that in line with the company’s leave policy, there is an early intervention service aimed at ensuring the employee has support and help to maintain employment throughout stressful periods of their life. Alternatively, where an employee is returning to work following leave due to psychological illness, the manager explains that the company would like an independent assessment of their needs for structure and support as they prepare to return to work.

A sample approach to an early intervention service provided by IOH

Every individual and workplace is unique. The process outlined below is a flexible and may be modified according to the needs of the specific organisation or employee. The IOH psychologist will discuss the best approach for the specific circumstances with the referring party, prior to proceeding with the service.

  1. An initial interview and independent psychological assessment of the worker. Depending on the presenting problem, a spouse or family member may also be asked to contribute to the initial interview.
  2. Case discussion with the employee’s treating doctor or psychiatrist
  3. Follow-up referral to Mental Health Team, treating psychiatrist or psychologist
  4. Development of a Management Plan in discussion with worker and manager. 

The “Management Plan” will outline the main features of the employee’s condition and any associated risk factors which need to be managed in order to support the employee’s return to their work role. With the express permission of the worker, the plan will be discussed with an on-site manager and with their treating doctors. The plan will outline specific behaviours of concern and will document agreements as to how these will be handled, including the different responsibilities of both the employee and the manager.

Where considered appropriate, an agreement may also be made for the on-site manager to contact a nominated family member, should a worker be unwell at work and require immediate assistance.

Find Out More

We are happy to discuss how this service can improve mutual understanding of the employee’s psychological illness and result in improved outcomes in the workplace

For further information about the service please contact IOH Psychology Services Manager on 02 4210 7222.