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Rageh Omaar unwell on air: What can employers do if an employee insists they’re well enough to work?

In the wake of ITV News presenter Rageh Omaar’s apparent medical episode on air, questions arise about employer responsibility when an employee insists they’re fit to work

After ITV News presenter Rageh Omaar appeared to suffer a medical episode while anchoring the 10pm news on Friday, questions have been asked around the way in which his bosses handled the emergency.

Mr Omaar was taken to hospital following the News at Ten bulletin, and in a later statement he thanked viewers for their concern, saying that he “had been determined to finish presenting the programme”. ITV colleagues have reported raising concerns about Mr Omaar’s health ahead of the bulletin but said he insisted that he was well enough to present the show.

This raises the question, what can an employer do if an employee insists they are well enough to work?

Gavin Scarr Hall, Health & Safety Director at Peninsula, says “Employers have a duty of care to their employees so the final decision as to whether someone is fit to work should always lie with them. It’s understandable that an employee may want to continue working, whether that’s out of a sense of responsibility in their role, not wanting to let colleagues down, or not wanting to acknowledge any ‘weakness’. But it’s an employer’s responsibility to take the tough decisions when needed.

“In this case, it appears that concerns were raised, and medical attention was sought, but should Mr Omaar have had the final say on whether he was well enough to present, or should bosses have overruled him? Based on the evidence available and without knowing what was happening behind the scenes, I can say that watching him struggle to speak made for uncomfortable viewing and – as a manager – I would not have allowed him to continue.

“If you see a colleague who appears visibly unwell, this should be reported immediately to the resident first aider or the appointed person, as well as the colleague’s manager. If they need first aid, this can then be administered, or further medical intervention sought.

“It is important that a decision on return to work should only be reached after a careful balancing of obligations under the reasonable adjustment duty and the duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health & safety of employees and others.

“Carry out an employee wellbeing assessment that considers the nature of their work, how it is organised and managed. Take account of the employee’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing and how that affects their ability to do their job. Use the information and advice in the employee’s fit note to clarify their fitness for work or as guidance on restricted duties before they return to work, attend a return-to-work review or before completing this wellbeing assessment.

“You should also consider whether there might be any long-term residual disability that could have substantial adverse effects on the person’s ability to carry out day to day activities. If there is, reasonable adjustment to avoid discrimination must be considered. “Should there be a health & safety reason that cannot be avoided the person should not continue in that role. You may have to consider alternative roles or, in the most serious cases, terminating employment.

“However, this step should only be made after the thorough examination of the possibility of adjustment have been made including additional health & safety precautions and in consultation with your HR support.”

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