Should candidates disclose pre-existing illnesses prior to employment?

Should candidates disclose pre-existing illnesses prior to employment?

Candidates on the open labour market seeking suitable employment opportunities who have pre-existing illnesses or conditions, some as a result of a WorkCover or TAC injury, fear that these may negatively impact their ability to secure a job. Certainly, for some candidates, there may be challenges in returning to the workforce if they have pre-existing physical restrictions or other conditions that may impact upon their ability to perform employment on a consistent and reliable basis and the question the potential candidate asks is “should I tell a potential employer about my injury/illness?”

Firstly, an employer’s reason for sending a prospective employee for a pre-employment medical assessment or requesting the disclosure of any pre-existing illnesses or conditions as a part of the recruitment process is to determine whether that person is fit to perform his or her job without risk to themselves or others. Employers should consider the inherent requirements of the job and the medical assessment should balance the physical and mental demands of job tasks with the health status of the employee.

Employers do need to ensure that the processes they follow and recruitment decisions they make adhere to current legislation and do not discriminate on the grounds of physical or mental disability, however according to Section 41 the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013:

“Before a worker commences employment the employer can write to the worker to:

  • advise the nature of the proposed employment
  • ask the worker to disclose pre-existing injuries and diseases that could be affected by the proposed employment
  • advise the worker that if they fail to disclose or make a false or misleading disclosure any recurrence, aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation and deterioration of the pre-existing injury or disease resulting from the employment does not entitle the worker to compensation.

Failure to disclose

From 29 June 1998, a worker is not entitled to compensation if it is proved that before commencing employment:

  • the employer took the actions described above
  • the worker failed to disclose a pre-existing injury or disease that they were aware of or made a false or misleading disclosure.”

So, to answer the question posed by candidates – Yes you do need to tell a potential employer about your pre-existing illness/injury for your safety in the workplace and protection if something goes wrong; and for the safety of others around you. With the information provided by the medical assessment, the recruiter or hiring manager of the potential employer should consider the individual characteristics of each applicant in the light of the inherent requirements of the job.

An employment assessment performed by one of our Human Resources professionals can provide an expert recruitment opinion on your clients’ current work capacity, their realistic employment prospects into suitable employment and/or gaining employment in the open labour market, subsequent to an injury.

If you would like further information on this topic, or would you like further information about the reports that Flexi Personal’s Employment Assessment team can provide, please contact Katherine Rintoule on 93609722 or find out more at the Employment Assessment team website.