The Commission has made a determination that has wider repercussions for employers seeking to require employees to undertake mandatory health assessments.
In a ruling that went against ‘Cement Australia Pty Ltd’ Commissioner Paula Spencer has made it clear that any requirement by employers who direct employee’s to undergo a health assessment must be clearly linked to the ‘workers ability to perform the inherent requirements of the job’.
Cement Australia’s requirements were considered to be too general in terms and there were concerns from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) as to how the information was to be stored and how the Company was proposing to use this information in the management of a particular group of workers.
The Company had noticed a statistical rise in injuries occurring amongst its heavy transport division and sought to establish a program to assess and evaluate the risk as a means of moving to reduce the incidence. However drivers (who already had to attend compulsory bi annual medical assessments as part of the Company’s Main Roads accreditation) were now facing potential disciplinary proceedings if they refused to attend the additional Assessment. The Commission found that the Health Assessment was “based on a general concern regarding the trend of musculoskeletal injuries for the group overall”, without first establishing genuine need for the assessment that was relevant to the requirements of the workers’ jobs.
Commissioner Spencer ruled that the company’s direction for the program was unlawful or unreasonable and went on to state that “There has been an insufficient particularisation of the data to establish a genuine need to direct an entire segment of the workforce to undertake this assessment. Further, the outcome of the Risk Review Program will not provide medical information directed to the inherent requirements of the job or provide a link to reduce the musculoskeletal injury rate.”
It has been clearly established therefore that where an employer has a genuine concern over a workers’ capacity to safely undertake tasks specific to the requirements of the role for which they are employed then this is acceptable but the onus is on the employer to clearly establish the parameters of any medical assessment.
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