In sickness absence management it is important that employers investigate the situation fully which will include gaining access to medical records. In the majority of cases this will be so they can provide support to the employee to enable them to return to work, possibly with reasonable adjustments if they are classed as disabled under the Equality Act. In other cases, it may be to consider ill health termination or disciplinary action if the employee has not been truthful with regards the reasons behind their absence.
The Access to Medical Records Act allows an employer to gain access to those medical records with the full permission of the employee. If an employer has a situation where the employee refuses to comply with such a request, then they must make a decision on their ongoing employment based purely on the information to hand. If an employee has high sickness absence and refuses to allow access to their medical records then a possible outcome could be dismissal.
An employer can use a medical professional to gain a report on the employee’s medical condition and its long term prognosis, to find out whether they are classed as disabled and may need reasonable adjustments for example. Whilst the employee’s GP can be approached, they will be only interested in the best interests of their patient and the information they may provide may be lacking for the employer. An occupational health advisor, on the other hand, will work in the best interests of the employer and provide a well rounded report so the employer can take action.
The employee should provide written consent to a report being produced on their medical condition and agree to a possible medical examination. The process should be open and transparent with the employee fully involved. They have the right to see the report before it is provided to the employer and have 21 days to so. They can amend the report if they do not agree with certain aspects that could be misleading or are incorrect. If the medical professional refuses to amend the report the employee can withdraw consent that the report is provided to the employer or may add their own written explanation to be attached to the report.