Service level agreements can help to clarify the deliverables expected in a contract and ensure smooth running of the contract. Service level agreements (SLAs) have long been part of the occupational health landscape but, with standards for providers becoming more important than ever, getting the SLA right and knowing what to put in it has never been more important.

A minimum standard is that the supplier has met the SEQOHS standards.

Any contract must define a clear service level agreement so that both parties understand from the outset what they can expect from the service. A provider can also use an SLA as evidence of “the range of services that are included and excluded in the contract for services as well as target waiting times for appointments and the process for providing feedback to employers on suspected and confirmed new cases of work-related ill health”.

Step one – needs assessment

Questions to cover in building an SLA.

  • What services are within and external to the contract
  • What staff will be applied and how do you provide cover
  • Key metrics – e.g. case referral, speed of processing, effectiveness and feedback
  • Time period
  • Issue resolution timeline
  • Fees  and invoicing

Step two – communication

From a legislative perspective, the OH provider should be advising the client on what medical assessments or components they require to ensure they are compliant, and for high-risk roles or environments a clinician should normally be involved. From an absence management or low-risk environment perspective, the OH provider should be offering types of services and delivery methods to suit the client’s specific requirements, objectives and budget.

It is important that the client openly discusses with the provider why they require the OH service, what their service priorities are and its overall objectives.

step three- contract management

Monitoring of the SLA needs to come down to regular liaison, initially at monthly intervals but extending to quarterly meetings once the contract has bedded down. Such meetings should be relatively formal, with minutes and an agenda so that audit is easier. The service provider should supply an action plan fitted to the needs of the employer but also with regard to current legislative and good practice in the OH field. The employer should prepare a report of the service to the provider annually.

Customer satisfaction should form part of the process as well as management satisfaction as to how the actual service is delivered and ease of use. There may be a need to have a senior management meeting at set times during the contract where any strategic discussions can be made with senior people from the employer and the contract,” adds the AOHNP