Do you include a medical assessment of an employee’s fitness when you employ them?

by | Apr 19, 2022

I advocate for the inclusion of medicals strongly – especially when a job is high risk or physically taxing. I have worked with countless organisations who paid a high price for not having this process set up and well managed through expensive WorkCover claims, employee turnover and administration.

I recently worked with a client in a manufacturing environment in northern Victoria, not far from the beautiful Murray. They were in a crisis – here’s their story.

They needed someone in the warehousing area who could handle loading goods on to shelving, delivery trucks as well as driving the forklifts. They were desperately short staffed, and so the Manager, Keith, put someone on as quickly as he could. He was relieved, the new guy – let’s call him Mick – started immediately and took the pressure off the team.

Eight weeks later, Mick called in sick. He said he had a sore hip and was struggling to walk, so was going to the Doctor.

Keith was immediately stressed out. It’s only been eight weeks, and he’s back to square one with staff shortages and the unknown of how long Mick might be off on sick leave.

Later that day, he gets another call. Mick has put in a WorkCover claim – he’s injured his hip and arm.

During the next few weeks, the WorkCover claim progressed, and Mick had a full medical assessment organised by the insurer. That’s when Keith found out Mick had TWO pre-existing injuries incurred in his previous jobs.

Both were chronic. One was his hip, the other his arm.

Keith never asked once if Mick had any pre-existing injuries or illnesses that may have an impact on Mick fulfilling the role. That lapse in process meant he had no defence under WorkCover legislation. His policy incurred the claim in full.

Mick went for total impairment claim – and it was accepted.

Keith was left with:

  • A backlog of work, overtime rates and sick leave payments incurred due to Mick’s initial absence.
  • A huge, 30% WorkCover premium increase the next year.
  • A huge amount of stress and worry.
  • And the cost of employing someone again – amounting to 4 times Mick’s wages of the bottom line.

How do you prevent a claim like this?

After the claim, we overhauled Keith’s HR systems. We implemented a HR Framework that started with his onboarding processes. Now they include:

  • An OHS questionnaire that includes a checklist and self-disclosure question to determine pre-existing injuries.
  • Interview question about pre-existing injuries and illnesses.
  • A complete medical assessment prior to the final offer of employment being made. Keith funds this, it’s around $150 per person (significantly less than the costs he incurred for Mick’s claim).
  • All documentation held on record and appendixes to the employment contract.
  • A contractual condition of employment to disclose immediately any changes in the health and wellbeing of the employee that may impact the employee performing the inherent requirements of the role safely.

In addition, Keith has established a relationship with a local medical practitioner who understands Keith’s business and the roles where employees are required to be physically fit.

If these 5 simple steps had been followed with Mick, he may not have been employed for this role – and Keith would never have endured such an ordeal.

If you want to prevent costly claims and HR issues like these, get in touch for a confidential chat.

Maureen Kyne



Maureen Kyne

Maureen is a leading authority in workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination. With qualifications and a career spanning nursing, manufacturing, construction, transport, HR, IR & WHS she brings wide-ranging experiences.

Having lived and worked in both regional towns and capital cities, Maureen understands the economic and workplace pressures faced across diverse environments from harvesting sheds in farming communities to metropolitan corporate boardrooms.

Maureen presents with a warm demeanour and easy conversational style yet is fearless in raising the issues most prefer to avoid. Whether wearing a prevention, detection or correction bullying hat, Maureen knows how to peel back the layers and get to the root cause of the toughest and most complex situations.

Respect drives change and as a confidante and training facilitator Maureen will do what it takes to save lives and build better futures.


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