The recent case of Hail Creek Coal Pty Ltd v Haylett & Anor  QCA 259 (4 December 2015) has provided guidance on the limitations of an employer seeking health information from an employee.
The employee began as a Drill Rig Operator at the Hail Creek Mine and in 2010 was left unfit for work after a workplace injury. In September 2014, following the completion of a period of recovery, the employee was assessed as fit to complete the inherent role requirements of the Drill Rig Operator role. The company sought an additional assessment to be completed by the company doctor for a Generalist Operator role of which the employee had never been engaged as. This secondary assessment classified the employee as unfit for the Generalist Operator role.
The employee subsequently sought a Supreme Court declaration that allowed him to continue working as a Drill Rig Operator due to being fit for his contracted role. The Supreme Court declared the secondary assessment invalid, and commented that it: “impermissibly referred to a prediction of future risk rather than addressing a current problem”.
This finding was upheld in the Court of Appeal.
This means that when employers are considering an employee’s ability to complete the inherent role requirements, they must be those for which they are employed and not any other incidental duties.
Managing ill and injured staff is a tricky area to navigate, so if you have concerns contact the National Retail Association to discuss any workplace issue on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).