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Can we keep a register of employees’ medication?

Q: We have several workers who take medication for depression and other psychological issues. One worker, in particular, is of great concern to us.

Are we able to request that these workers (or all workers) disclose the number and types of medications they take?

Also, can we set up a register to cover all types of legally prescribed medications to refer to in case of an accident or emergency?

A: If you are concerned about the effect of any prescription medication on your workers’ ability to perform their duties safely, you can direct workers to inform you of any such medication.

This would constitute a lawful and reasonable direction. It is also something that could be included in any drug or alcohol policy in your workplace.

If the prescribed medication is not something that affects workers’ ability to perform their duties at work, you cannot compel your workers to provide the details of their medication. However, you could request that workers voluntarily notify you of any medication they are taking, which is to be used in the event of an emergency.

If you are generally concerned by the health and welfare of some of your workers, subject to your employment contracts, policies and procedures, you may be able to direct a worker to attend a medical examination to assess the risk to their health and safety (and that of others) in continuing to perform the inherent requirements of their roles.

This falls within your duty to ensure the health and safety of your workers. Any request for a worker to attend a medical examination must be reasonable in the circumstances.

It is important to note that mental illness is defined as a disability under anti-discrimination legislation and any actions that you may take that treat these workers any less favourably than other workers may give rise to a discrimination complaint under the Fair Work Act.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Mental health in the workplace for current advice.

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