Should employers access employees’ medical records?

Saturday, August 17th, 2019 00:00 |
Medical record. Photo/Courtesy

Samson Osero

Recently, social media platforms were awash with mixed reactions when a local human resources practitioner demanded and obtained medical information from an employee. 

The employee, who was resuming work after a short medical leave, reluctantly provided information for fear of losing their job. Surprisingly, the information leaked out making the employee talk of the office.

The medical report exposure has since raised a number of issues regarding the privacy and protection of employees’ information at the workplace.  Here are five factors that need to be addressed on obtaining and handling prospective or existing employees’ personal information:

-Pre-employment medical information

Sometimes medical reports are obtained without the knowledge or consent of prospective employees and have been used to deny them jobs.

Employers who decline to offer jobs to qualified candidates on medical grounds are flouting the Employment Act that forbids any form of discrimination for employment purposes. 

-Information for medical cover

Under the constitutional right to privacy, employees have no obligation to disclose their health status to the employer or any third party.

Despite this privacy right, employers who want to provide comprehensive medical cover for employees require them to provide health information to insurance companies.

Employers are advised to seek the consent of employees to undergo the required medical examinations and strictly use the reports for the intended medical cover.

-Statutory requirement tests

Employees working in industries such as aviation and food are mandatorily required to undertake prescribed tests to confirm their fitness for duty. However, the statutory requirement for the tests does not allow employers to access extra employees’ health data. 

-Employment termination

Some unscrupulous employers who would like to terminate the services of ailing employees have sometimes demanded that they undergo a medical examination.

An employer should obtain consent from the affected worker for any required medical tests. If the resultant medical report recommends termination of employment on medical grounds, the employer may take action in line with the employment law. 

The writer is a human resource development consultant [email protected]

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