• Kenneth Hannon
    Just reaching out for some advice.

    A worker has refused to complete an annual health declaration advising me of any changes to his health. Changes, which may affect his ability to perform safe work. This is private he claims and something that only he and his doctor can discuss. As we all know, health changes over time and this worker performs high risk work, full time.
    I am concerned for both his physical and mental health but at the same time have a duty to protect the worker from harm while at work. I am powerless to help if I don't know what conditions he may have.

    What are my options here?
    Appreciate any guidance from anyone who has experienced similar.
  • Jan Hall
    If I am concerned for someone's health all I ever do is request a doctor's certificate declaring that the person concerned is fit for the work they will be doing.

    Anything else, in my opinion, is a pretty gross invasion of privacy.
  • Dianne Campton
    Hi Kenneth. That's tricky. I would go back to your H&S or HR system for guidance. If you have a policy or procedure stating that this information is required annually then it is a reasonable request from an employer, so long as you are not asking for detailed information which is private between doctor and patient. Another option is to have mandatory health monitoring paid for by the company annually.
    You need to make sure your questionnaire is based around the risks associated with the work. I've seen some that a doctor would complete for a patient which is far more than is reasonable for an employer to know.
  • Genevieve Power
    We have used an Occupational Health Physician to complete a fitness for work assessment and provide medical clearance - I will PM you some further details on the approach
  • Amanda
    Firstly: Do you have any conditions within the employment contact that the annual health assessment must be carried out?

    Secondly: Is there also any indication or evidence been given that his health is impacting his ability to work? If there is you could always look at an occupational therapist coming in to provide an assessment and create a work plan that suits his ability. You could talk with MBIE or an HR advisor to get an understanding of to how to best manage this and not cross any lines.

    If there is no indication or evidence his health is affecting his ability to work or perform the tasks required and no statements of annual health declarations agreed upon within the contract or OHSMS, you need to respect his decision not to carry out the health check.
    I would suggest a discussion with MBIE or a HR advisor be carried out to make sure this is handled correctly.
  • MattD2
    I think you might have a bigger issue on your hands than just getting an employee to fill in a form, especially if they have had not issue with completing it in the past.
    Have you considered your employees current perspective - say they have been diagnosed with something that could affect the ability to work, might they now be concerned about what that means for their employment and their means to provide for themselves / their family. In that position I could (honestly) see someone using any means they had to keep working.

    Questions for you:
    What would be the real consequences if the employee was to have a health condition that would mean they were unfit/unsafe for work?
    And if there shouldn't be any real concern, does the employee fully understand this?
  • karen martin
    This is a tricky one i have come across the same thing we moved him to a admin role to reduce the risk of harm to him but if that was not possible we were going to go down the ER track.
    If his work is suffering because of this issue you could go through an Occupational therapist to give you an assessment.
    Is he subject to health monitoring for his role?
  • Sheri Greenwell
    Don't people like bus drivers, pilots, etc have to undergo mandatory regular health checks? How are those managed?
  • Andrew
    As Amanda says, first port of call is the employment agreement.

    I would add there is a difference between a health declaration and getting a health assessment.

    At this point the key question, to me, seems to be "is the person displaying behaviors that suggests they may no longer be competent to do their job safely." If the answer is "no" then you don't have anything to go on. If it is "yes" then standard performance management practices apply.
  • Annalisa
    Your worker sounds a bit spooked by the process, perhaps let him know of the privacy laws around medical information, then the process if he did declare something, being a medical assessment based only on his ability to perform his role without HS risks, his rights to see any information the employer gives to the medical practitioner (usually a JD), as well as his abilty to discuss with his GP the release of medical information to the assessor. Often workers may think it involves a free for all to their medical records, this is not the case. He may also have a new diagnosis he's concerned of that may not even be an issue to the employer. Perhaps reaffirm that to him also. The aim is hopefully ensure you can accomodate support any issues he has without posing risk to the company or him. Best of luck.
  • Kenneth Hannon
    Thank you and all respondents for your helpful advice regarding this matter.
  • Kenneth Hannon

    Yes, hearing and lung function testing annually.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    I am reminded of an injury management challenge some years ago when a 62 year old factory operator strained his back, went to his doctor and got a certificate for time off. The Operations Manager and I rang to talk to him, and the worker was very hostile and didn't want to talk to us. He didn't want to come in to meet with us. When we offered to come to his house, he said he would set the dogs on us! I suddenly remembered advice from negotiations training and remembered the tip for breaking a stalemate - I asked him what it would take for him to talk with us. He asked if he could have his union rep there, and of course we said yes.

    When he finally came to talk with us, we eventually unravelled the defensive "firewall". He was going to have knee replacement surgery in a few months, and with that and his age, he was very afraid that the manager was just going to fire him and get someone younger and more fit to do the job! After his initial adrenalised and defensive response subsided, he also eventually admitted that he has been suspicious because of how managers in the past had treated him.

    That's a slightly long story, but here are some of the most important lessons I learned from that experience:
    - Find out what's behind the person's resistance - it's usually much deeper and more complex than it looks on the surface. In general, everyone is trying to get some need met - find out what the real need is, rather than guessing or projecting. And don't judge - there will be a reason for their perspectives. Sometimes it can even be a situational distortion due to fear and the adrenaline it generates.
    - Don't take it personally - sometimes people are actually just venting and often just acting on past experience that has nothing to do with you. It only becomes personal if you make it so.
    - If both parties adopt a fixed position, the discussion is very likely to get stuck. Among the principles of my own training is the maxim that the party with the most flexibility / adaptability will ultimately prevail.
    - If negotiations get stuck, ask the other party what they need and work on a solution from there.
    - Sometimes it takes a bit of time, discussion and various iterations to resolve an issue - be patient, and stay present. As long as you are still in the conversation, you can still influence the outcomes.
    - Listen with the intent to genuinely hear the other person and work together for a win-win solution.
  • Kenneth Hannon

    Thank you Sheri so much for your reply to this query. Your approach and lessons learned are most helpful.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    PS - We were able to agree for him to return to work on restricted duties while his back recovered and also to avoid causing injuries to his knees while he was waiting for replacement surgery. In many ways, we really turned around his attitude toward the company as well, so he was a lot happier to work together with us when it came time for his knee surgery.
  • Annalisa
    Nice story I am aware also we have aging workforce and need to start to be flexible, so much stigma around age as well as disabilty. Being humane and epathetic goes a million miles to build loyal and trustworthy relationships, a win-win.
  • Trudy Downes
    I am blown away by all the great advice provided on this question. Thank you everyone!
  • Amy Richards
    I’ve been in a situation where the change to health was neurological. It came to light as the employee had their driver’s license suspended over it, and being able to drive is a requirement of the job. Any changes to the license must be disclosed which is very clearly stated in our policies. In this instance I don't believe health monitoring or a fit for work medical would have been picked it up as symptoms can be hidden, or not immediately obvious, or sporadic. And also, health monitoring and medicals focus on the physical.

    As you can imagine anything in this realm needs to be handled with upmost sensitively and people are very cagey about it.
  • Aaron Marshall

    Pilots, Bus drivers, etc have hte medical requirement as part of holding the licence, which is a legal requirement. No medical certificate, and you can't exercise the privileges of your licence - the employer doesn't get involved.
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