Telling your employer about illness or injury – pre-employment

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Sometimes employers will ask you personal medical questions before you start a new job, or ask you to go to a ‘pre-employment’ medical examination. You do not need to disclose (tell) your employer any of your personal medical information, except when it is relevant to the job you’re doing.  

If you have been asked medical questions by your future boss, or they’ve asked you to do a medical test and you’re unsure if you have to, contact us here for free and confidential legal advice. 

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What is medical disclosure?

‘Medical disclosure’ just means telling someone your personal medical details, which might include: 

  • History of mental illness 
  • Previous surgeries 
  • Current medications you’re on 
  • Any other medical conditions, like epilepsy. 

Can I be asked to disclose medical information during the recruitment process?

Some employers may ask medical questions in an interview, or on new employee forms, before you commence employment. These might be questions like: 

  • Do you have any current medical conditions, like diabetes or epilepsy? 
  • Are you on any medications that might affect your ability to do the job? 
  • Do you have a disability which may impact your ability to do the job? 
  • Do you have any previous WorkCover claims? 

You only need to provide medical information which is relevant to the job you are being employed to do, if that medical information is reasonably likely to have an impact on your work. 

Can I refuse to provide medical information in a pre-employment form or interview?

There is no law in Australia which forces employees to provide their personal medical information to an employer or a prospective employer. In fact, health conditions including physical disabilities, previous injuries and psychiatric conditions are ‘protected attributes’ under discrimination laws – which means that employers cannot refuse to give you a job simply because of any real or imagined issue that your medical condition might present.  

However, your employer may need to know any medical conditions which can have an impact on your ability to do the job, so they can assess any safety risks, and/or what adjustments they might need to make for you so you can do the job.

When are future employers allowed to ask about my medical history?

Employers, or future employers, can only ask questions about your medical history, or current medical situation, in cases where those questions relate to the genuine requirements of the job. An employer can ask certain questions to determine if you can still do the job, to assess any safety risks, or to work with you to figure out what changes you might need in the workplace so you can still do the job.

For more information on discrimination in employment, see our information page on Discrimination in the workplace.

See this factsheet from the Australian Human Rights Commission for more information about what a future employer can and cannot ask you before starting a new job: Questions in Job Interviews 

Mental illness

Over 2 in 5 Australians aged 16–85 have experienced a mental health condition during their lifetime. It’s not going to be unusual then for you to have had, or still live with a mental illness. The rules around disclosure of a mental illness are the same for any other injury or medical condition. An employer can only request information about mental health which is relevant to the job you are being employed to do, if that mental health condition is reasonably likely to have an impact on your work 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has created a helpful guide on managing mental illness in the workplace, which can be found here: Workers Mental Illness Guide . 

Pre-employment medical tests

Some jobs will ask you to do a medical test, or even a psychological test, before starting a new job. Just like the rules around disclosing your medical history, there are some cases where a future employer can ask you to do a medical test before commencing employment, for example: 

  • Where there are possible safety risks involved in the job, for example a job in mining; 
  • Where there are specific duties in the job which might be difficult with certain medical conditions. 

The law says that employers can ask you to undertake a medical assessment ‘where necessary’. If you’ve been asked to do a medical test, either before or after starting a new job, and you’re not sure if you have to, contact us here for free and confidential legal advice. 

Vaccinations

Future employers can either ask you to get specific vaccinations, or provide proof of vaccinations in certain circumstances, for example: 

  • If you are about to start a job in a health setting, like a hospital; or 
  • If you’re required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccine in your workplace. For specific information on the COVID-19 vaccine, see our information page here. 

The information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine on our page titled COVID-19 vaccines and your workplace rights can be applied to any vaccine required by your employer.  

Medical disclosure after I’ve already started the job

Sometimes employers will ask their existing employees to undergo medical examinations or even drug and alcohol tests. For information about this, see our page on Medical disclosure during employment. 

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