Under what circumstances might an employer need to obtain a medical report on an employee?

Date: Friday, 25th January, 2019

Not everyone is comfortable sharing personal information with your employer, and you can’t get more personal than your medical information. In general, this is not something that you would usually need to share with your employer unless you choose to, and it is understandably classified as sensitive data under the GDPR (2018) regulations.

However, there are certain instances when your employer might need this information:

  • Onboarding

Some employers might need a medical report as part of the onboarding process or as part of a conditional job offer. This would generally be for a specific role in which the health or fitness of the candidate affects their ability to do the job.

  • Managing absence

A medical report might assist with identifying any underlying causes of employees with high levels of short-term absence. A report can provide guidance on how the employer can help reduce these levels of absence and can also prove invaluable if disciplinary action is proposed as a result of  absence levels.

Additionally, if an employee is on long term sick leave an employer may need to obtain a report to assess if they are able to return to work, and if so, when and how they can take any steps to support this.

Some employers have a permanent health policy such as Income Protection or Critical Illness cover for their employees on long term sick leave. As part of ensuring that the employee receives the monies due from the policy, the insurer may require a medical report confirming that they are unable to work.

  • Determining Disability

Medical reports might be required to determine if an employee’s health status would class them has having a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If confirmed, the employer would then have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in relation to the employee.

  • Health & Safety

If an employee is working in an industry that has exposure to hazardous substances, periodic testing may be required as part of the Company’s health and safety policy.

Are you able to refuse the request for a medical report?

In simple terms, yes. Your employer is not able to obtain any sensitive information about you without your informed and opted-in (rather than presumed) consent.

However, we would advise that before refusing any request you assess the reason, as typically an employer would not ask for your medical information if not absolutely necessary. The report is likely to be for your benefit, to understand how your employer can help you return to work and to confirm any adjustments they may need to make due to disability or to help aid a smooth transition of your return to work. Refusing a legitimate request might be seen as being obstructive and difficult and would not necessarily help, if there were to be any contentious issues moving forward as the employer can only use the information they have available to make decisions.

What will the report say?

It is also important to highlight that generally when an employer receives a medical report, they will only receive the information necessary for them to fulfil their legal responsibilities, this would typically be:

  • Whether the illness constitutes a disability;
  • Will it impact the ability to perform the role;
  • Whether a full time return to work is likely;
  • What, if any, reasonable adjustments at would need to be made.

In line with GDPR regulations, a report from a doctor or occupational health professional would be shown to the employee beforehand and is only released to the employer with explicit consent, the employee is in control of any information that is shared with their employer and can review, request amendments and withdraw consent at any time.

I would be prudent to check with your HR professional to ensure that consent is obtained in line with GDPR regulations and that any report obtained is necessary, and that the questions asked are relevant and essential to purpose of the request.

Why not get in touch with us for more helpful HR advice.

 

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