Health screening is a process of assessing the health status and risks of employees through various tests and examinations. It can help to identify and prevent potential health problems, including many chronic diseases relating to heart and organ health. Health screening can also provide employees with information and advice on how to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
But is health screening a legal requirement for employers in the UK? And what are the benefits of offering health screening to staff, even if it is not mandatory? In this blog post, we will explore these questions and provide some guidance for HR and wellbeing leaders in UK workplaces.
The Legal Aspects of Health Screening
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), health surveillance is required in workplaces where workers remain exposed to health risks even once controls have been put in place.
Some examples of work activities that may require health surveillance include:
- Working with hazardous substances, such as asbestos, lead, silica, etc.
- Working with biological agents, such as blood-borne viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc.
- Working with noise or vibration.
- Working with ionising radiation.
- Working with compressed air.
The HSE provides specific guidance on how to conduct health surveillance for different types of work activities on its website. Employers have a duty to consult with employees or their representatives before introducing health surveillance and to ensure that it is carried out by competent persons. Employers must also keep records of the results of health surveillance and inform employees of any significant findings.
However, health surveillance is not the same as health screening. Health surveillance is focused on detecting work-related diseases or conditions, while health screening is broader and covers general health aspects that may or may not be related to work.
Therefore, health screening is not a legal requirement for most employers in the UK, unless it is part of a health surveillance programme.
When Health Screening May be Legally Required
There are some exceptions where employers may have to provide certain types of health screening to employees as part of their legal obligations. For example:
- Eye tests for employees who use display screen equipment (DSE), such as computers or laptops.
- Periodic medical checks for employees who drive vehicles or operate machinery.
- Medical treatment for employees who work overseas and need treatment.
- Medical treatment for employees who are injured or ill due to work.
The Benefits of Health Screening
Even if health screening is not a legal requirement for most employers in the UK, there are many benefits of offering it to staff as part of a wellbeing strategy. Some of these benefits include:
- Reduced health risks: Health screening can help to detect and prevent potential health problems early on, before they become serious or costly. This can reduce the risk of absenteeism, presenteeism, disability, litigation, etc.
- Improved performance: Health screening can help to improve employees’ physical and mental health, which can boost their productivity, creativity, motivation, engagement, etc. This can also enhance the quality of work and customer satisfaction.
- Access to physical health information: Health screening can provide employees with valuable information and advice on how to improve their health and wellbeing. It can also help them to set goals and track their progress.
- Helps overcome or manage existing health problems: Health screening can help employees who have existing health problems to find treatment or manage their condition better. It can also help them to avoid complications or worsening of their symptoms.
- Look out for previous unidentified issues early on: Health screening can help employees who may not be aware of their health risks or problems to discover them early on. This can help them to take action and prevent further damage or harm.
- Lifestyle advice to enhance long-term benefits: Health screening can help employees to adopt healthier habits and lifestyles, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, losing weight, etc. This can improve their long-term health and wellbeing, as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
How to Implement Health Screening in the Workplace
If employers decide to offer health screening to staff, they should consider the following steps:
- Assess the needs and preferences of employees: Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to find out what types of health screening they would like to have and how often. They should also consider the demographics, health risks, and work activities of their staff.
- Choose a provider and a level of health screening: Employers should research and compare different providers and levels of health screening available in the market. They should look for quality, reliability, convenience, and affordability. They should also consider the legal and ethical implications of health screening, such as data protection, confidentiality, consent, etc.
- Communicate and promote the benefits of health screening: Employers should communicate and promote the benefits of health screening to staff in a clear and positive way. They should explain the purpose, process, and outcomes of health screening, as well as address any concerns or questions that employees may have. They should also encourage and incentivise employees to participate in health screening.
- Evaluate and follow up on the results of health screening: Employers should evaluate and follow up on the results of health screening with employees. They should provide feedback, support, and guidance to employees based on their individual needs. They should also monitor and measure the impact of health screening on employees’ health and wellbeing, as well as on business outcomes.
Health screening is not a legal requirement for most employers in the UK, unless it is part of a health surveillance programme or a specific obligation. However, health screening can provide many benefits to both employees and employers, such as reduced health risks and improved performance. Additionally, given the scarcity of GP appointments, health screening offers assessments that staff wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily access on their own.
Employers who wish to offer health screening to staff should assess the needs and preferences of employees, choose a provider and a level of health screening, communicate and promote the benefits of health screening, and evaluate and follow up on the results of health screening.
Health screening can be a valuable tool for enhancing the health and wellbeing of employees in UK workplaces. It can also help to create a positive work culture that values and supports employees’ physical and mental health.