You wouldn’t expect an employee with a broken leg to walk up and down stairs every day, so why do we assume an employee with mental health issues should be able to meet usual deadlines and productivity levels?
Despite a recent increase in awareness of mental health, workplaces still struggle with understanding the impact psychological injuries can have on an individual, unlike tangible physical injuries.
Complicating this further is the fact that even with a formal diagnosis, symptoms experienced, treatment methods and recovery times vary significantly from person to person due to individual differences.
Recently we have seen a rise in “fitness for work assessments” relating to mental health issues. It is important that employers recognise when an assessment is appropriate, and when it is not.
Here are some common situations where you might request a medical assessment:
- When an employee is absent from work for a long period with unsatisfactory evidence provided as to why;
- When there is legitimate cause for concern for the safety of the person, or others;
- When they return to work from an injury or illness and are on full or restricted duties;
- When reasonable adjustments have been made but there is no improvement in symptoms and/or performance;
- When the employee has disclosed a mental health condition, but you need to initiate performance management processes, and;
- When the employee is no longer able to perform the inherent requirements of their job.
But before requesting a medical assessment, you need to consider whether:
- Is it a reasonable and lawful direction?
- Is it a reasonable request to require certain or additional information?
- The medical assessment request relates to the inherent requirements of the position (i.e. ensure a position description is provided and contains the essential requirements of the role).
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