Access to Medical Reports Act of 1988
Cases when the employer might seek medical reports
There are many compelling reasons for the employer to gain access to an employee’s medical reports. These include:
- When an employee is on a long-term sick leave, and the employer wants to know when they will be able to return to work.
- For employees who take frequent short sick leaves, it’s important to determine whether they have a medical condition that affects their work.
- If the employee is disabled, the employer might want to know if they need to adjust the employee’s workload or work conditions.
- To decide if an employee falls under the Equality Act 2010 which protects people against discrimination in the workplace for many reasons including disability.
- To check if a prospective employee can carry out their duties.
- How does the employer request a medical report?
When the employer applies to gain access to an employee’s medical report, that application should focus on specific questions related to the medical condition of the employee and their ability to do their job. If the employee is on prolonged sick leave, the application should inquire about their possible date to return to work. Or if the employee is on disability, then the application should ask if there are specific recommendations to accommodate their disability and whether to redeploy them into other roles within the company.
Because an Employment Tribunal assesses each case individually, it’s important for the employer to follow these strict rules when applying for obtaining an employee’s medical report:
- The employer should inform the employee in writing of their need to see their medical report.
- The letter to the employee should include all the clauses in the AMRA regarding the employee’s rights.
- The employer should obtain written consent from the employee approving the employer’s request.
Once the employer has obtained that written consent, they should include it with their request to the medical practitioner.
What if the employee refuses to give consent?
When asked for their permission, the employee can choose to reject the employer’s request and refuse to give consent. And if the employee’s contract of employment doesn’t have a provision that allows the employer to see the medical report, there’s nothing the employer can do. An employee cannot be forced to grant access to their medical reports.
If, however, such provision exists in the contract of employment, then the employee would be in breach of contract and could face disciplinary action. Still, it’s worth noting that the employer still needs to follow the strict procedures of AMRA and ascertain that the request is specific to employment purposes.
The Data Protection Act protects all information about the employee’s health and medical records. The reason for that is that such information is sensitive personal data and cannot be shared without consent from said employee. Therefore, it’s within the employee’s rights to request access to all personal data, including health reports, which the employers hold about them.
For the employer to make sure they are not breaking the law, they should seek counsel with their employment law adviser before requesting an employee’s medical reports.