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Health questionnaires: when and why should you use them?

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Health questionnaires: when and why should you use them?

New Employees

Health questionnaires: when and why should you use them?

Requesting health information from job applicants and existing employees can be a high risk business activity due to privacy issues and the possibility of claims of discrimination. However, not being aware of pre-existing conditions can be a hidden liability for employers. It is important that businesses have a system in place that can adequately attempt to address this issue. Failure to address this can result in the employer being accountable for conditions and illnesses which are unrelated to the employee’s work.

What can I ask employees?

An employer may request health information from applicants and employees where it can be established that the information sought relates to the inherent requirements of the position. For instance, a labouring position may require the employee to be able to undertake physically intensive work, while a clerical position may require an employee to be able to remain seated at a desk for an extended period of time.

How and what an employer asks during this time must be considered relevant to the inherent requirements of the position and should be constructed in line with relevant legislation.

Here are some examples of how to ask an employee for health information:

  1. Specify the physical requirements of the job, such as standing, moving, lifting, driving, operating machinery, etc.
  2. Then ask: Is there anything that might affect your ability to meet these inherent requirements of the job?
  3. Follow-up question: What modifications to work procedures, equipment, etc could enable you to perform the job?

Questions to Avoid

  • Do you have any disabilities (please specify)?
  • Do you have any health problems (please specify)?
  • What is your height (or weight)?

Such questions would likely expose employers to liability of an adverse action claim or discrimination claim.

Implementation

Employsure provides a sample health questionnaire to assist in obtaining new employee information in an efficient way.

The best practice approach for the implementation of a health questionnaire includes the following:

  • Ensure all employees receive the questionnaire in the same way, at the same time of employment and for the same reasons.
  • Be consistent with the use of information across all employees. Ensure that there is no bias when information is received and any action that may be taken as a consequence. Document any issues related to the matter.
  • Ensure the physical requirements are genuine and are in line with the inherent needs of the position.
  • Take care to ensure that confidentiality is maintained with the information and that only the appropriate employees have access to this information.

Should you require assistance requesting health information from employees or accessing a sample health questionnaire, please contact Employsure on 1300 651 415.

By Lea Fox, Employment Relations Documentation Consultant 

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