SICKNESS ABSENCE: PRE EMPLOYMENT SCREENING
The Hazards test test
1. Can the job be adapted so that health problems
identified by testing would not be relevant?
The UK Civil Service medical agency calls for the referral of job
hopefuls with any one of 55 ailments - including arthritis, depression,
asthma and chronic bronchitis - for pre-employment medical assessment.
But some firms do perfectly well without any screening, so could the service's
real interest be justifying its own job?
2. Are there staff competent to introduce changes
to accommodate workers with disabilities or particular health needs?
This is now a legal requirement in Sweden. Disability campaign group RADAR
points out that compulsory medical screening for teachers used to make
no attempt "to determine the practical ability to teach, given appropriate
aids and adaptation."
3. Could good safety practice remove the need
for the test?
Frequently the screening is being used to avoid potential compensation
claims which should not arise if ergonomic changes are made.
4. Are the screening tests used relevant?
US law outlaws screening prior to a job offer, so candidates are assessed
primarily on their ability, not disability.
5. Were applicants told the purpose of the tests?
UNISON members on Southwark council were asked to say whether a series
of statements applied to them, including: "I am not afraid of picking
up disease from door knobs" and "I like tall women", a
procedure an ex-chief psychologist to the civil service described as an
"ethical minefield" and "bound to go haywire".19 workers
were sacked on the basis of these tests.
6. Do the tests give sound results?
At a meeting organised by the European Trade Union Technical Bureau a
UK chest specialist pointed out that because tests for atopy (a tendency
to become allergic to substances) are insensitive and not specific, to
prevent one extra case of allergy to lab animals in a group of 100 laboratory
workers it would be necessary to eliminate 16 applicants.
7. Are tests carried out by someone competent?
In the UK only 10% of those carrying out psychological tests are recognised
by the British Psychological Society as competent to do so.
8. Do job applicants have a right of access to
Medical reports provided by a hospital or family doctor to your employer
are covered by the Access to Medical Reports Act, which give workers the
right to see and propose amendments. But a legal loophole means that reports
prepared by a doctor acting for your (potential) employer are not covered.