What is a pre-employment health assessment

Before starting work, some companies require candidates to undertake a pre-employment health assessment. This process ensures that you are fit and able to perform all the tasks required of you, and that you don’t have any pre-existing health issues that could affect your safety, the safety of co-workers, or visitors to the site.

The secondary aim of a pre-employment health assessment is to gauge whether there is a need to make changes or modifications to the workplace to ensure the company meets the needs of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In addition, the health assessment can provide baseline data for the company about the health of new employees, and also for future assessments.

This article on pre-employment health screening is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

The Disability Discrimination Act

In 1995, the Government legislated to ensure disabled people had equality of opportunity in a wide range of areas, including employment. Since December 2006, it is a legal requirement for all public sector organisations to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. The Act requires employers to make “reasonable adjustments” to the workplace in order to accommodate disabled people. Reasonable adjustments include:

  • Alteration in duties
  • Provision of special equipment
  • Assistance from colleagues to undertake some tasks
  • Alteration of offices or furniture to allow physical access
  • Agreeing flexibility in hours or place of work

When prospective employees undertake pre-employment heath assessments, any changes that will be required can be arranged in advance.

How are health assessments conducted?

Most pre-employment health assessments are conducted using one or more of the following methods:

  • Questionnaire (state-of-health questionnaire that can be sent by post)
  • Physical assessment by nurse or doctor
  • Interview (more likely if you’ve declared any condition in the questionnaire that might affect your ability to perform certain tasks)

What happens to the information?

Data and information gathered from pre-employment health screening is used to advise managers about any changes that need to be made to the workplace to accommodate disabled people or people with a chronic condition. In addition, it can provide information to managers about whether new staff members will need any specific health and safety training. Pre-employment health assessment information also gives employers a baseline of the health of their employees as they entered the company.

If the job involves any of the activities below, there may be certain health implications specific to the job that will need to be evaluated in more detail:

  • Work with patients
  • Work with babies or children
  • Contact with laboratory animals or insects
  • Handling dangerous pathogens
  • Other work requiring health surveillance
  • Night work
  • Food handling
  • Driving vehicles
  • Tasks requiring accurate colour vision

What are the outcomes?

Prospective employees are usually classified as ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’ for the job. Rarely, a person is classified as ‘provisionally fit’ and re-assessed at a later date.

Fit – there are no health or fitness reasons why this person cannot do the job.

Unfit – this person has a health or fitness problem that will prevent them from doing the job to the standards required.

Provisionally fit – a health or fitness issue has been identified that could prevent this person from safely undertaking their duties; however some time observing them in the work situation is needed before a final decision can be made. For example, if someone has recently recovered from an operation or illness that temporarily affects their ability to work, or there is a health problem that may recur again in the future. A probationary period of work may be offered so that further assessments can take place.

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