By Carlen Lowe

Employers owe a high duty of care to its employees and a pre-employment medical examination may go towards fulfilling those obligations.  Such assessments can:

  • Confirm an applicant is able to perform the inherent requirements of the role;
  • Allow an employer to account for any disabilities, impairments, and pre-existing medical conditions an applicant may have;
  • Reduce sick leave, decreased productivity, and staff turnover;
  • Reduce the risk of workplace injuries and insurance claims; and
  • Ensure an employer complies with its work health and safety obligations.

It is important to balance those concerns with an applicant’s privacy as well as ensuring there is no discrimination on grounds of physical disability.

The main reason for a pre-employment medical assessment is to ensure the applicant can perform the inherent requirements of the role.  Occupational therapists and GPs may perform such assessments and there are numerous occupational health organisations who may assist as well.  For more specialised assessments, consider an occupational physician.

To assist an assessor, the employer should provide a detailed description of the role.  Such information should centre on tasks that present a foreseeable risk of injury.

As part of the assessment, an employer can request disclosure of all pre-existing injuries or medical conditions that could impact or be aggravated by the performance of the specific role.   The request must be done in writing and accompanied by details of the nature of the employment duties.   Applicants should be advised that if they knowingly supply false or misleading information, their entitlement to compensation or damages under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 may be affected.

Sometimes the questions may appear inappropriate.  As a precaution, employers should provide context to the questions asked.  The determining factor is how the responses are used and with regard to discrimination law.

If a disability or medical condition is identified, an employer should work with an applicant to suggest any reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.  Ultimately, an employer may not proceed with an offer of employment if:

  • The applicant cannot perform the inherent requirements of the role;
  • There is a high risk of injury if the applicant were in the position; and/or
  • There is unjustifiable hardship on the employer to accommodate the applicant.

Employers should also be mindful the results of any examination are protected by privacy law and, in some jurisdictions, specific health information law.

If you require assistance in reviewing your pre-employment medical process or require further information, please contact us on 07 3211 2233 or by email to carlen.lowe@btlawyers.com.au