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Annie Hayes



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Health Quiz: Test yourself!


Most employers are aware that they must process workers’ personal information in a fair and proper way under the Data Protection Act 1998. But what about processing employees’ health information? Employment law expert Ian Lewis, a partner at national law firm Rowe Cohen, says ignorance of the law can lead to criminal charges. How much do you really know?

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

Q 1. Do the following types of information (stored electronically or filed) fall within the scope of Data Protection law?

(a) Questionnaires intended to identify workers health problems
(b) Information about disability or special needs
(c) Eye tests using a display screen

Q 2. Employers can only collect ‘sensitive’ health information with good reason. Are the following ‘good reasons’?

(a) To meet a legal obligation
(b) For clear medical purposes
(c) The worker has agreed and signed an authorisation

Q 3. The adverse effect of collecting health information on the employee has to be assessed – with certain exceptions. Are these exceptions?

(a) When there is a clear legal duty to collect the information
(b) When the benefit gained from processing the information justifies the intrusion on privacy or other adverse effect
(c) When the employee has some obvious health problem

Q 4. Are the following actions considered ‘good practice’?

(a) Being satisfied that your actions are justified by real benefits
(b) Having a clear purpose for processing health information
(c) Collecting no more information than is strictly necessary
(d) Collecting the information in writing on a form
(e) Tape recording the information in an interview
(f) Ensuring that the information is collected by an authorised person who understands the constraints of the Act
(g) Protecting the information securely and ensuring that only medically qualified professionals have access to it

Q 5. Do these rules apply?

(a) Sickness and injury records must be kept with absence and accident records
(b) Sickness and injury records may only be used for proper purposes
(c) Sickness and injury records can never be used where absence records would suffice
(d) The only ‘non-medical’ persons who may access health records are those for whom it is an integral part of their job

Q 6. When is a medical examination and testing permissible?

(a) When someone applies for a job
(b) When the employer is satisfied that it is necessary and justified to establish whether a potential employee is (or will remain)fit for the job in question
(c) To satisfy the legal requirements of a pension insurance scheme
(d) In order that the employee can join an Occupational Health and Safety scheme

Q 7. Is it legal?

(a) To obtain a medical sample (a DNA swab, for example) covertly
(b) To use a medical sample given for a particular purpose to screen for other medical conditions
(c) To retain information gained from a medical examination or testing after its original purpose has been fulfilled
(d) To delete properly obtained health information from a worker’s file

Q 8. When is it legal to test employees for drugs or alcohol?

(a) When their behaviour repeatedly gives cause for suspicion
(b) When the criteria for testing has been justified, documented, adhered to and communicated to the employees
(c) When it is a random test, confined to workers whose
duties expose them and others to safety risks
(d) When the test is needed to reveal habitual alcohol abuse or the use of illegal substances outside the workplace
(e) When the workers are made aware beforehand that the test is taking place and about it’s possible consequences

Q 9. What can genetic tests be legally used for?

(a) To predict the workers future general health
(b) To detect conditions that might impact on their own or others health and safety
(c) To confirm the accuracy of previous genetic tests
(d) To determine whether factors in the working environment might adversely affect the employee or cause them to pose a risk to others
(e) To reveal information about an employee’s predisposition to communicable diseases


Answers. One point for each correct answer

Q 1. (a) yes (b) yes (c) yes
Q 2. (a) yes (b) yes (c) yes
Q 3. (a) yes (b) yes (c) no
Q 4. (a) yes (b) yes (c) yes (d) no (e) no (f) yes (g) yes Q 5. (a) no (b) yes (c) yes (d) yes
Q 6. (a) no (b) yes (c) yes (d) no
Q 7. (a) no (b) no (c) no (d) yes
Q 8. (a) no (b) yes (c) yes (d) no (e) yes
Q 9. (a) no (b) yes (c) no (d) yes (e) no

Score ratings
30 – 38 points Excellent
19 – 29 points Very good
11 – 18 points Process health data with great care in future
Less than 10 points You could easily end up in jail!

Ian Lewis can be contacted at Rowe Cohen on T: 0161 830 4600

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Annie Hayes


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