Managing Employee Medical Issues

Managing Employee Medical Issues

Advice for dealing with medical conditions in the workplace.

By Marcia Smith

Can HR discuss employees' medical condition with others?

Discussion of your medical condition internally within the organisation is legal, but it should always be justified. An HR manager may need to discuss possible adjustments to your working conditions with your line manager or supervisor, for example, and this may require sharing details about your medical condition.

However, details of your physical and mental health, including the results of medical examinations and information volunteered by you, are legally classed as sensitive personal data under the terms of the Data Protection Act. This law applies if your medical information is recorded on paper or electronically, in which case your employer should have defined procedures about how your data is processed. You should be asked to give your consent for your data to be processed.

Can I terminate an employee's contract due to medical issues?

If an employee's medical condition is long-term and prevents them from working, then yes.

As an employer you will need to consider whether any reasonable, practical adjustments could be made to enable someone with a medical condition or disability to continue working. Could they be given alternative duties, for example, or work on the ground floor if they can’t manage stairs? You also need to consider whether the job itself has made the employee unwell, and you need to allow a reasonable time for them to recover.

You can’t fire them for having a disability, but you can terminate their employment if their illness stops them from doing their job.

If you do terminate someone's employment contract, they would be eligible for applicable out-of-work benefits, depending on their personal circumstances. However, employers need to tread very carefully in such situations. Remember, most employees qualify for statutory sick pay for the first 28 days of their illness, and you will also have to pay them for any holiday entitlement they have accrued both prior to and during their ill health.