Can an employee be directed to attend a medical assessment?
Generally, yes, provided that the employer has good reason for doing so.
‘Good reason’ includes where the employer genuinely needs information from that medical assessment to:
- protect the workers’ own workplace safety, or the workplace safety of others, or
- for genuine operational reasons (for example, an employer might wish to know an employee’s long term prognosis and fitness for work to allow for workplace planning).
In every employment contract, written or not, there is an implied term that the employee must obey their employer’s lawful and reasonable directions about matters within the scope of their employment. Terms will also be implied where it is a matter of necessity. Failure to follow lawful and reasonable directions can justify (fair) termination of employment.
When might such a direction not be OK?
If a suspected medical condition is outside of the scope of the employee’s employment, or has no bearing on it, the direction might not be lawful, and might be discriminatory.
Further, a direction might not be reasonable because the employee has only been sick for a short period of time, or because the employee has already provided sufficient information about their health to their employer (or was willing to do so).
What processes should an employer follow?
When directing an employee to attend a medical assessment, the employee must be given adequate notice of the appointment, and that the doctor they are being directed to see is appropriate for their (suspected) conditions.
If an employee objects to the assessment report, they should be given the opportunity to provide their own medical evidence (and have this taken into account) before acting on the assessment report.
To prepare the doctor for the appointment, it is usually helpful to provide a description of the inherent requirements of the employee’s duties, so that the doctor can assess the extent to which the employee’s disability, illness, or injury might affect their ability to perform these duties.
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