What is the best way of dealing with a job applicant’s health declarationform and who should be privy to the sensitive information it may contain?Q Last month we asked whatreaders would do when faced with the following problem: One of our departmentshas been upgrading its recruitment processes in recent years. It providesinformation about the risk profile for jobs, for example. But it also asksshort-listed candidates to complete a health declaration form prior tointerview. The reason I came to hear of this was that I fielded oneenquiry from an unsuccessful candidate about whether an item in the medicalhistory might have influenced the decision. The department is clear that therewere professional reasons for the decision but I have suggested to thedepartment that this practice could be regarded as against the spirit of the DDA.The response is that the department has worked hard on its procedures andbelieves they are fair and non-discriminatory. It seems to me that a health declaration should be limited tothe candidate who is offered the job. An alternative might be to ask theshort-listed candidates to complete the form and place it in a sealed envelope.When a job offer is made the sealed envelope for that candidate is sent to theOHS, the envelopes of any candidates on a reserve list being retained pending adecision, and the envelopes of unsuccessful candidates are shredded, ideally bythe OHS. Winning answer A The pre-employment health screening is an important and integralpart of the employee recruitment and selection service. The purpose of thisscreening is to ensure that applicants are assessed prior to and for employmentto ensure that they are fit for the position they are applying for and areplaced in appropriate work. A pre-employment health questionnaire or a health declaration form is animportant tool for the occupational health nurse and/or the occupational healthteam. This tool helps to assess the applicant’s fitness from the answers givenin the form in determining the physical and psychological suitability toperform the job applied for. The OHN, in determining the fitness of the applicant, must take intoconsideration that the final decision rests within the spirit of the legalaspects of employment: – Equal opportunities policy – Health and Safety at Work Act – The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations – Disability Discrimination Act – Working Time Regulations The OHN must operate within the guidelines and professional code of ethicsset out by the UKCC and the GMC and be consistent with the guidance publishedfrom time to time by the Department of Health and the HSE. The pre-employment health screening process must be strictly confidentialbetween the assessing occupational health nurse or medical practitioner and theapplicant. The sharing of health information must be limited to the health careprofessionals and the applicant. The appointing person is informed of theoutcome of health screening. Systems should be in place for safe storage of health records such as healthdeclaration forms and for employees to access health records as laid down inthe Access to Health Records Act and Regulations under the Data Protection Act.Therefore the best and most acceptable practice is following the interviewto ask the successful candidate to complete the health declaration form incomplete confidence and enclose it in a sealed envelope addressed to theoccupational health nurse. The sealed health declaration form must only be scrutinised by theoccupational health nurse and a decision is given to the appointing person inwriting in the strictest confidence. In a health declaration form resulting ina negative decision, the decision must only be to state that the named personis considered unfit for the position applied for. The appointing person shouldnot be given any reasons for the decision. In line with the DDA, if reasonable suitable adjustments could be made tothe job in order to accommodate the applicant’s disability then the OHN shouldmake such recommendations. The final decision to appoint a person rests with the appointing manager. I do not wish to subscribe to the idea of holding a reserve list ofcandidates and completed health declaration forms as individuals’ healthconditions may change in a space of time. It is imperative to assess theapplicant’s fitness at the time of employment. R Pathmanathan Occupational health and safety adviser, Quantum Care A When I worked for an NHS trust in the locality, it occurred to meduring screening that they were interviewing candidates and sending a number ofshort-listed individuals for screening, as part of the selection process. We explained that this wasn’t acceptable, and that it wasn’t cost-effective.We advised that they provisionally book a time on the day of interview for theselected candidate to be screened. If the chosen candidate wasn’t”medically” suitable, they then had time to ask the second choice toattend for screening without wasting too much time, prior to sending out theregrettal letters. This also saved time if the first choice declined the joboffer, which happened occasionally. In addition, we had to work quite hard to impress on them that it was notacceptable to inform the candidate that the job was theirs, as long as theypassed the medical. I haven’t had this experience with any other employer. Another “dilemma” I’ve encountered during pre-employment screeningis that of an individual who has applied for a post, been selected, attendedfor screening and then informed me she is pregnant. The job she applied for wasa crucial post, which had taken a lot of time and effort to fill. In thesecircumstances, I passed the individual fit for employment, as there was been nomedical reason not to do so. In this situation I would advise/persuade theindividual to inform the proposed manager of her pregnancy, but if she declinedto do this, I would be unable to breach the confidentiality issue. What wouldothers do in these circumstances? Ann Roberts Senior occupational health adviser/ business development manager, CorporateMedical Management A I read with interest your dilemma in this month’s magazine. As acompany we provide pre-employment assessments to certain companies via a paperscrutiny method from our remote HUB centres in Scotland and Manchester. When we enter into this type of contract with the clients we specificallyoutline the procedure that should be followed, this includes putting the healthdeclaration or pre-employment health assessment form in the job offer pack forsuccessful applicants. We include a printed stamped addressed envelope and theforms are sent directly to our department with no risk of breach ofconfidentiality from the client companies. This allows us to give a fair andimpartial response on the individual’s fitness for work and because we outlinethe confidential nature of the process on the form which they can be sure comesdirectly to us, we have found that the respondents are more open and honest.Acceptability for the job is then judged on the references and the “fit forwork” certificate produced by the OH staff. As an OH nurse in an inhouse department, surely this type of suggestioncould be made to management using stamped addressed envelopes to reduce costs.This would prevent having unnecessary paperwork from candidates who do not makeit through the recruitment process. This could be presented as an effort toraise the quality and cost-effectiveness of a pre-placement programme whileprotecting them from the ever-increasing threats of litigation, a fact thatnone of them can afford to ignore. Margaret Murray RGN RM BA SPOHN Regional occupational health manager (Scotland), Bupa Wellness Previous Article Next Article Well, I declareOn 1 Dec 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.