17 June, 2009
Forbes Solicitors in Blackburn is reminding employers of the importance of making relevant health enquiries before making an offer of employment. This follows a recent case where a council failed in their attempt to sue a former employee who they claim cost them £1m in financial losses.
Christine Laird was appointed as a Managing Director in 2002 but left in 2005 on an ill health pension after taking sick leave on full pay. Cheltenham Borough Council had claimed they suffered the huge financial loss as a result of what they allege was her deceit, claiming that she had withheld a history of depressive illness. The Council contended that had they known of the employee's medical history it would most probably not have employed her.
Peter Byrne, Senior Employment Solicitor at Forbes comments, "This case highlights the importance of making relevant enquiries before offering employment or alternatively making any offer of employment conditional upon medical screening."
"This is usually done by providing the employee with a pre-employment questionnaire. If any of the answers to the questions reveal concerns, the potential employee should then be referred to an Occupational Health Consultant in order that those concerns can be considered further. This will enable employers to look at potential disabilities and identify reasonable adjustments so that both the employer and the employee can move forward in a positive manner, if possible. However, this may also flag up a medical history which could raise such concerns that the potential employee does not proceed to permanent employment."
Obviously, if the questionnaire is completed in the manner which does not reveal health issues, which later prove to be pre-existing, this may result in disciplinary action on the basis of dishonesty.
By taking these steps, it may be possible to limit the risk of costs in legal action which, as highlighted in the above case, can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.