Pre-employment Medicals – When are they appropriate?
Does your workplace require potential employees undertake a pre-employment medical? If so, have you reviewed the legal implications and risks of doing so?
The reasoning behind requiring pre-employment medicals may appear to be common sense – after all it is an employer’s obligation to comply with their duty of care to protect the health and safety of employees – however it’s the information that may come to light as a result of the medical that can land an employer in hot water.
Essentially, both Commonwealth and State legislation state that it is unlawful discrimination to not hire an employee because of a disability unless it can be shown very clearly that the individual’s disability renders him/her unable to perform the inherent requirements of the role with reasonable safety to him/herself.
So what’s an employer to do? Not require the pre-employment medical and potentially put a new employee at risk; or require the medical and risk discrimination claims?
It’s all about balancing risk. Ask yourself:
- Has a risk assessment been undertaken on the position being recruited for? Is it a high risk position? If so, what tasks are high risk?
- Is the information the medical will provide you directly relevant to those high risk tasks? (for example – a strength assessment for a job with substantial heavy lifting) or does the medical assessment include irrelevant information? (for example – an eye test for a job with heavy lifting).
The risk of including ‘job irrelevant’ information in a potential employee’s medical assessment is the possibility that the employee may claim they were discriminated against and/or not awarded the position because of irrelevant medical factors, which constitutes discrimination. For example, the candidate applying for the manual handling position may perform well with the strength test, but the medical assessment may also show that s/he is diabetic. Although irrelevant to the position, if the candidate feels they were discriminated against based on their condition, it will result in lost time and potential penalties and/or claim for your business.
All in all, pre-employment medicals are very useful for high risk positions, but if your organisation does make this a requirement, consider asking yourself why, and revisiting the relevance of the information contained in it.