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What is a health assessment?

As a manager and leader in the APS, it is important to understand how you can best work with, and manage, employees with health conditions in the workplace, and how you can make reasonable adjustments to support people to stay at or return to work when their health circumstances change. Providing appropriate
support and assistance to employees and getting job-fit right can reduce the length of absence due to ill health, improve quality of work for employees and reduce workplace costs associated with ill health.

Circumstances can arise where an agency needs to obtain specific medical advice on an employee's health-related capacity to perform their job, in order to introduce appropriate supports.

When used appropriately and effectively, health assessments are a valuable management tool.

Health assessments enable your agency to understand how an employee's health condition may impact on their capacity to perform their job. The advice obtained from qualified medical professionals on an employee's needs, restrictions and capabilities assists your agency to make informed decisions about
how best to support ill or injured employees in the workplace.

Health assessments help your agency to:

  • support employees to remain at or return to work
  • prevent and manage reoccurrence
  • aid recovery through rehabilitation and return to work
  • minimise the potential for future harm, and
  • resolve cases that might otherwise become protracted.

An individual's health, work and their work environment can change at any time. Because of this, a health assessment may be necessary:

  • before an employment relationship begins (that is, as a condition of engagement);
  • early on in an employment relationship; or
  • at any stage during the employment relationship[13].

Health assessments can be used where a physical or psychological health condition (or both) is newly acquired or where there is a change to or a relapse of an existing health condition or disability. However, each of these cases must be managed according to the circumstances and facts of the case.
There is no 'one size fits all' approach.

Direction to undergo a medical examination

Under regulation 3.2 of the Public Service Regulations 1999, an agency head may direct, in writing, an employee to attend a medical examination, by a nominated medical practitioner, for the purposes of assessing the employee's fitness for duty. The ability to issue this direction can be delegated by the agency head to another

The regulation provides that the direction to undergo a medical examination can happen within a specified period, in circumstances where the agency head believes that the state of health of the employee:

  • may be affecting the employee's work performance; or
  • has caused, or may cause, the employee to have an extended absence from work; or
  • may be a danger to the employee; or
  • has caused, or may cause, the employee to be a danger to other employees or members of the public; or
  • may be affecting the employee's standard of conduct.

An agency head may also direct an employee, in writing, to undergo a medical examination if the APS employee is:

  • to be assigned new duties and the agency head believes that the state of health of the employee may affect the employee's ability to undertake those duties; or
  • to travel overseas as part of their employment.

In addition to directing an employee to undergo a medical examination, the regulation also provides that an agency head can direct the employee to provide a report of the examination within a specified period, or that the medical practitioner may give the agency head a report of the examination. The
agency head can seek to obtain a copy of the report from the medical practitioner without seeking or confirming the agreement of the employee[14].

Section 22(6)(e) of the Public Service Act 1999 allows agency heads to impose a health clearance as a condition of engagement. Regulation 3.1 of the Public Service Regulations 1999 provides the circumstances related to a health clearance as a condition of engagement.

Public Service Act 1999

Public Service Regulations 1999

[13] US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2007, Criteria and methods used for the assessment of fitness for work: a systematic review, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2092557/

[14] Public Service
Regulations 1999

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018