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Can Employers Demand Access to Employee Medical Records?

The balance between employee privacy and employer interests can be delicate. One of the most contentious issues arises when employers need access to their employees' medical reports. This need can stem from various legitimate reasons: ensuring workplace safety, accommodating disabilities, verifying fitness for duty or managing health insurance benefits. However, employees are understandably reluctant to share their private health information. This clash between the necessity for employers to be informed and the employees' right to privacy creates a complex challenge. This article will discuss whether employers can demand access to their employees' medical reports and under what circumstances.


Why might employers seek access to employee medical reports?


There are several reasonable circumstances in which an employer may seek to obtain the medical reports of a current or prospective employee. During the pre-employment process, an employer might need to verify that a candidate's health or physical ability meets the requirements of the job. This is particularly relevant for roles that demand specific physical capabilities or have health-related safety standards. Furthermore, employers often require medical information as a prerequisite for enrolling employees in the company's health insurance scheme. Ensuring accurate and comprehensive health information helps employers manage insurance coverage effectively and can impact the terms of the policy.

Additionally, understanding an employee's medical condition can be crucial in complying with legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. Employers may need to determine if an employee has a physical or mental impairment that qualifies as a disability. This assessment is essential not only for compliance but also for identifying any reasonable adjustments that might assist the employee in performing their job effectively.


Employers also need to manage long-term absences effectively. Knowing the likely timescale for an employee's return to work after a prolonged illness or injury can help in workforce planning and temporary staffing arrangements. Similarly, when an employee has frequent short-term absences, understanding if there is an underlying medical condition is important for providing appropriate support and making necessary adjustments.


Finally, assessing an employee's medical condition is sometimes required to determine eligibility for statutory sick pay (“SSP”) or benefits under a permanent health insurance (“PHI”) policy. Accurate medical information ensures that employees receive the benefits they are entitled to and helps in managing the financial implications for both the employer and the employee.


What does the law say?


The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (“AMRA 1988”) states that employers can access medical reports about an employee if the reports are provided by a medical practitioner and are related to the employee's work. However, this access is contingent upon the employee's explicit consent. Without this, the employer cannot obtain or review these medical reports. This ensures that employee privacy is protected while allowing employers to obtain necessary health information under regulated conditions.


For an employer to access an employee's medical reports, a specific procedure must be followed. The employer must notify the employee in writing of their intention to request access to their medical reports. This notification is essential for transparency and allows the employee to understand the purpose behind the request. When seeking explicit consent, employers are required to inform employees of their rights under the AMRA 1988. The most straightforward way to do this is by providing a summary statement outlining these rights.


Once consent is obtained, the employer must secure the employee's written authorisation and submit this to the relevant medical professional as proof of the employee's agreement. This step ensures that all parties are aware of the consent and the conditions under which the medical reports will be shared.


What rights does an employee have under the AMRA 1988?


An employee can do the following things under the AMRA 1988 regarding the access of their medical reports by their employers:


Refuse their consent for their medical reports to be provided.

Consent to the medical reports being provided to their employer and allow it to be sent directly.

‣ Consent to the medical reports being provided to their employer, but request to see the medical reports before it is sent.


If an employee states that they wish to see the medical reports first, the medical practitioner must wait 21 days before sending the reports to the employer. During this period, the employee must make suitable arrangements to view the reports or have it sent to them. If the employee does not review the reports within the 21 days, it will be sent to the employer.


Are there any exemptions under the AMRA 1988?


The AMRA 1988 outlines specific exemptions regarding the disclosure of medical reports. A medical practitioner is not required to show an employer any information that they believe could cause serious harm to the employee’s physical or mental health. Additionally, a medical practitioner is not obliged to disclose information about third parties to the employer unless they have obtained consent from the third party involved.




In summary, while employers can request access to employees' medical reports for legitimate reasons, they cannot demand it outright. The AMRA 1988 mandates that employees must provide explicit consent before their medical reports can be shared. Employees also have the right to review these reports and withhold consent if they choose. Therefore, the balance between workplace safety and employee privacy is maintained, ensuring that any access to medical reports is both justified and regulated.


Aria Grace Law CIC

At Aria Grace Law CIC, our employment law and data privacy team offer tailored support for both employees and employers. Whether you are an employee concerned about your data privacy rights or an employer seeking to understand your legal obligations, we are here to provide clear and practical advice. We are dedicated to ensuring that your rights are protected and that you have the information you need to make informed decisions. If you have any questions or need assistance, please don't hesitate to email us at


Article by Puja Modha (Partner) and Sarah Davies (Trainee Solicitor) – 31 May 2024


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