As an employee, it can sometimes be difficult to know what your rights are, and what your employer is legally allowed to do. When it comes to medical information and activities, knowing your rights is even more important as this involves sensitive, private information. In this article, we let you know what your rights are when it comes to an employer wanting to speak with your doctor and/or accessing medical information.
So, can an employer call your doctor? If an employer needs to legitimately access the medical information of an employee, they must first inform them of their rights, but they cannot call an employee’s GP, or access their medical information, without explicit written consent from the employee.
Read on to learn more about employee rights with regard to the disclosure of medical information.
Is it illegal for an employer to call your doctor?
It is illegal for an employer to call your doctor, or seek access to your medical records, without your explicit written consent. They must also inform you of your rights around this subject under the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988.
What’s more, if consent is given, the employee has the right to see a copy of the report before it is sent to the employer, and can request that certain information be removed from the report that they deem to be irrelevant or damaging. At this stage, they can also pull their consent, and not allow the doctor to release the report.
In addition to the above, the employer must also ensure that they comply with data protection laws (GDPR) as medical reports are considered sensitive, personal information, and could be damaging in the wrong hands. .
Why might your employer ask to speak to your doctor?
Your employer, or potential employer, may ask to speak to your doctor or access your medical records for a number of reasons, although, some of the most common reasons include:
- Checking that the employee is physically fit enough to carry out the job
- Verifying a doctor’s note or information about sick leave
- To prevent disability discrimination
- To prevent health and safety risks
- For information regarding health insurance (where appropriate)
However, in all of the above situations, the employee’s rights, as laid out above, still apply. Further to this, an employer cannot approach an employee’s GP or other medical practitioner to verify an appointment., without their written consent
Can HR verify a doctor’s note?
Despite the above outline of employee rights, an employer does have the right to contact the issuing doctors office to verify a sick note provided by an employee.
However, they are not allowed to ask for any additional information regarding the illness or condition. In this situation, the employer is only entitled to the information that is already included on the sick note – as before, your medical information cannot be accessed with your explicit consent.
Can my employer make me see their doctor?
Under GDPR, employers, legally, cannot force an employee to see any doctor, nevermind a doctor of the employer’s choosing, without the employee’s consent, even if such a clause is written into their contract. Written consent is required each and every time an employer may, for whatever reason, need to access medical records, or request an examination.
There may be situations, however, where an employer requires an employee to visit a doctor for clearance before returning to, or when starting work. They cannot make you see their doctor, however. A note of clearance from any doctor will be sufficient as employers can legally verify such notes. .
Can an employer stop an employee from seeking medical attention?
Your employer can never stop you from seeking medical attention, but in cases where your condition is not severe and doesn’t require immediate attention, they may ask that you schedule an appointment at a specific time. If you become severely ill at work, to the extent that you require medical attention, they must allow you to do this, and/or provide first aid.
Many employers ask that employees schedule medical appointments either first thing in the morning or at the end of the working day so that they do not miss too much work. Some employers will also allow employees to work from home on such occasions so that they are closer to their medical centre.
HR Outsourcing and HR Consultancy UK
Centric HR offers HR Outsourcing and HR Consultancy across the UK. If you are an employer and are worried about complying with employee rights or GDPR, get in touch with us today to see how we can help you get to grips with your responsibilities as an employer. You can also visit our Employee Health and Wellbeing page to learn more or of course contact us here.