Employee Medical History – How To Approach

by Dec 5, 2022All Posts, Human Resources, Industrial Relations

As an employer, you have the right to know of any employee medical concerns that can or will directly impact an employee’s capacity to fulfill their current or potential role within your business. Knowing what you can ask of a potential or current employee can be a very prickly subject, especially within the recruitment process as this gained knowledge has the potential to influence your candidate choice, which without reasonable consideration and grounds can result in the legal action of a discrimination claim.

How to Ask

There are both wrong and right ways to approach employees about this sensitive topic. Ideally an employer should:

  1. Develop and ask interview questions that are specific to a role, directed at extracting information that may impact an individuals capacity to fulfill the role;
  2. Initiate informal and formal opportunities of communication between management and employees to develop relationships for sharing of sensitive information;
  3. Conduct further third party investigation if a medical issue causes concern for a role; and
  4. Record, store and protect medical data with utmost privacy and security.

Employers should routinely ask employees of known medical conditions, within the recruitment process, performance reviews and informal catch ups. It is an employee’s legal obligation to inform an employer of any known medical conditions that may impair or influence working capacity or function. An employer is far better off to have asked the question and to have received a dishonest answer, opposed to NOT asking the question and being ignorant of an employee’s condition. Not only is this better from a legal stance, but it also works in favour of improving staff satisfaction, workplace culture and ultimately staff retention!

How to Respond

If a current employee discloses a recently diagnosed or deteriorating medical condition, adjustments will need to be made to the working environment to accommodate the employees ongoing condition and safety. This works in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which states that employers must make, ‘all reasonable adjustments if requested by an employee’. It is advised that employers respond to this disclosure by providing increased flexibility and access within the employee’s role and working environment. For example, negotiated adjustments to hours with later start times or increased capacity to work from home.

If you need assistance to investigate the severity of a potential or existing employee’s condition, we can organise pre-employment medicals, fit for work assessments, and advice on WHAT to ask and HOW to address a situation should an employee have failed to divulge a condition that later affects their employment. Contact Assurance HR Management Tasmania on 1800 577 515 for a FREE consultation!

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