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Can Employer Demand to See Prescribed Medication Details?

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 25 Sep 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Health Medication Data Protection Act

Q.

My employer forces everyone to submit their prescription medication information, with disciplinary action if you don't. I work in construction. Do they have the right to ask for my prescriptions?

(B.B, 28 April 2009)

A.

The Data Protection Act

If an employer gathers information about the prescribed medication taken by staff, the Data Protection Act applies. In other words, the right of workers to a measure of privacy has legal support.

This support is not absolute, however. The Data Protection Act allows employers a certain degree of freedom. This means that employers can request health data, but must do so only if they satisfy one of the Act’s “sensitive data conditions”.

The Sensitive Data Conditions

Employers can only meet a sensitive data condition if:
  • the collection of the heath information is necessary to maintain health and safety, or
  • the collection is needed to prevent discrimination against disabled workers, or
  • every member of staff has agreed to the collection.

In this instance, it seems likely that the employer is concerned about health and safety. The industry is construction, and it’s possible that the employer wants to ensure staff are not taking medication that may put them and their colleagues at risk.

As for the other conditions, there may be issues around disability discrimination, although the question doesn’t suggest this. It’s also clear that at least one member of staff hasn’t consented to the collection of medical information.

Nonetheless, the employer appears to satisfy one of the sensitive data conditions. Even so, despite the employer’s belief that gathering medical data is important, this does not grant a free hand to bully staff into producing it with threats of disciplinary action.

Other Principles

This is where other parts of the Data Protection Act come into play. Employers must state why they wish to see health information, and must explain the benefits they expect to come from this policy.

Furthermore, employers mustn’t keep these reasons and justifications to themselves. They must tell their staff what they hope to achieve.

The employer in this question doesn’t appear to have explained anything. This approach is unreasonable under the terms of the Data Protection Act. The employer needs to change tack and win staff confidence. If the employer insists on maintaining the current approach, staff may wish to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and ask it to intervene.

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I have a few invisible medical conditions that legally put me in the disabled category when it comes to work and there are adjustments that could be made to make my life easier but I’ve never brought it up and just suffered through it. I was limping one day due to a dislocated knee (common issue and I didn’t tell anyone because that’s a serious thing to other people but to me it’s not and I was managing as best I could) the 2 bigger bosses called me into the office and asked me what was up, and demanded a list of my medications. Their reasoning was so they could tell a paramedic in case anything happened one day. Nothing to do with health and safety in the store itself so it doesn't makes sense that they can or should ask? If they want me to tell them my medications and start that conversation, can I then ask them for adjustments? Even though I didn’t declare my illness on my work application 3 years ago? If they say “you’ve managed 3 years just fine” can I reply “I’ve been taken the same meds for 3 years and you’ve never bothered to ask before?”
Sickbutnotuseless - 25-Sep-20 @ 2:17 PM
I have a few invisible medical conditions that legally put me in the disabled category when it comes to work and there are adjustments that could be made to make my life easier but I’ve never brought it up and just suffered through it. I was limping one day due to a dislocated knee (common issue and I didn’t tell anyone because that’s a serious thing to other people but to me it’s not and I was managing as best I could) the 2 bigger bosses called me into the office and asked me what was up, and demanded a list of my medications. Their reasoning was so they could tell a paramedic in case anything happened one day. Nothing to do with health and safety in the store itself so it doesn't makes sense that they can or should ask? If they want me to tell them my medications and start that conversation, can I then ask them for adjustments? Even though I didn’t declare my illness on my work application 3 years ago? If they say “you’ve managed 3 years just fine” can I reply “I’ve been taken the same meds for 3 years and you’ve never bothered to ask before?”
Sickbutnotuseless - 25-Sep-20 @ 2:11 PM
I have a few invisible medical conditions that legally put me in the disabled category when it comes to work and there are adjustments that could be made to make my life easier but I’ve never brought it up and just suffered through it. I was limping one day due to a dislocated knee (common issue and I didn’t tell anyone because that’s a serious thing to other people but to me it’s not and I was managing as best I could) the 2 bigger bosses called me into the office and asked me what was up, and demanded a list of my medications. Their reasoning was so they could tell a paramedic in case anything happened one day. Nothing to do with health and safety in the store itself so it doesn't makes sense that they can or should ask? If they want me to tell them my medications and start that conversation, can I then ask them for adjustments? Even though I didn’t declare my illness on my work application 3 years ago? If they say “you’ve managed 3 years just fine” can I reply “I’ve been taken the same meds for 3 years and you’ve never bothered to ask before?”
Sickbutnotuseless - 25-Sep-20 @ 1:23 PM
Hello everyone, I have been working for the same company for 20 years and became disabled 7 years ago. The company made reasonable adjustments for me under the dda. However I now have a new manager who is trying to push me out and believes that because of my medication I am some kind of addicted drugy. My medication has never affected my job. The doctor has increased my morphine patches do I tell him or just HR?
sjr - 19-Sep-20 @ 12:29 PM
Working with an agency for 5 weeks now,no complaints,til yesterday,apparently they don't allow people to work on site who are legally prescribed methadone..3mil per day.can they do this.does not affect me in any way,physically or mentally.
Mick - 8-Jul-20 @ 6:47 PM
Hi I have been diagnosed with TB and my doctor gave me a six weeks sick note. I told my employer about it, I sent them a sick note and laboratory results paper. But now they want medical reports, stating that a sick note is not enough. Am I obliged to give them medical records are they not violating my rights by doing so.
Xolo - 18-Apr-20 @ 6:01 AM
I have taken2 days off work due to a chest infection. My doctor has prescribed amoxicillin. My employer has asked for photographs of my medication.Is this right?
Jules - 18-Dec-19 @ 7:18 PM
My boyfriend worked for a company in Pennsylvania, usa. Hr made him keep his medication in their office then left the building and wasnt availible when he needed to take it. The medication wasnt any type of narcotic so it didnt interfer with his job. Are they allowed to do this
Sunflower - 25-Apr-19 @ 12:13 AM
Hi I've been signed of on the sick for the past 6 weeks due to groin pains and ongoing investigation work. I planned to return to work and lower my dose of tablets I was taking. When I went into work my boss pulled me to one side and asked me how things were I explained I was currently still taking tablets and still have pains. Due to that he has refused me to go back to work. Following that it was mentioned that they have filled my position with a new employee and they would have to see if there would be work for me when I return. How does this stand as I believe I may have lost my job through being off on the sick?
Ant - 18-Feb-19 @ 12:19 PM
Hi, i have a disability and the day I did my return to work interview due to it none the manager nor the assistant manager were working but only another key holder with no managerial role. What happened is that the form we filled was inadvertently sent from the store email address accessible to all the staff to HR and the managers. Me and a colleague deleted it but reappeared once HR replied the following day. I brought it up to the manager in charge because, even if the attachment was cancelled with the reply from HR, he was mentioning that reduced hours and 'episode', but anyone could have read anyway. Nevertheless, two weeks after I found this full thread in the archive section of the account. I complained again and had to raise a grievance, but the reply was that that it is not a reportable breach and there is no evidence someone else saw it. I don't agree with as this are private information I have not decided to share and mine only. I wonder where the truth lies. On top of this, from the reply it is clear that the company has no system in place to how to process safely such information as you would expect to comply with GDPR. Can you give me some inputs?
pigri - 14-Dec-18 @ 9:14 PM
Hii asked my area manager for a transfer to a different service due to a few reasons one of which was a change to my health and been advised not to push wheelchairs. He arranged a meeting with myself and my line manager. Now since 2010 when I started in the company I gave them a list off medicine I was on some of them all my life. At my interview I was asked if they would affect my job performance which I said no and it hasn't done so. Then around 3 years ago I was taken off these and put on morphine so again I went gave my boss a list asked if I needed to do a risk assessmentwhich he said no but another manager said yes and done it there and then for me. Now as I said yesterday I had said meeting with area manager and he said before he could discuss a transfer he needed to talk to me about the medication I'm taking and that he was worried but also annoyed with the fact as area manager he had not been informed of this I explained that I didn't see why I'm being pulled up why surely that was my managers fault not mine. He said that's not the point. The issue is he was not informed and I need to be referred to occupational health for a company medical which I don't have a problem withbut he also says that due to my medication saying take twice daily andothers I take at night. Then it indicates that I'm stoned or possibly sleeping at work. I explainedthat the fact I've worked nightshift for 26 years my medication is taken in the morningbefore I go to bed and the prescription says night possibly due to it being meds you take before rest. Although he has a valid point and assume I need to speak to my house and get the wording changed. He said that OH will determine if I'm fit for my job. I feel as though he's saying instead off a transfer I'd probably be let go after so many years. I'm gutted and love my job supporting people with physical and mental /learningdisabilities. That although I have a curve in my spine I've recently been diagnosed with emfpasema and blocked arteries in my heart but have only had 2 sick days in 8 years. Could I possibly lose my job?? Is there anything I can do to help the situation I look forward to your reply shaz
shaz - 22-Aug-18 @ 6:35 PM
60 Sec Assassin - Your Question:
I was sent for a “random” drug test by my employer who seriously dislikes me for some reason. I told him I take prescribed medications and my drug test came back 100% clean. Now he is asking for my prescription proof. I take Xanax and Oxycodone. But tested clean. Do I have to give him proof even though they didn’t show? I don’t trust him at all and don’t want to put myself in jeapordy. After that, if he uses it as basis to fire me, can I still get unemployment in Arizona?

Our Response:
US employment law is different to UK employment law. As we are a UK-based site, we cannot help you with your question. You would have to take employment law advice locally.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 2-Mar-18 @ 1:44 PM
I was sent for a “random” drug test by my employer who seriously dislikes me for some reason. I told him I take prescribed medications and my drug test came back 100% clean. Now he is asking for my prescription proof. I take Xanax and Oxycodone. But tested clean. Do I have to give him proof even though they didn’t show? I don’t trust him at all and don’t want to put myself in jeapordy. After that, if he uses it as basis to fire me, can I still get unemployment in Arizona?
60 Sec Assassin - 28-Feb-18 @ 9:11 PM
@CJ - If there is a reason why your employer needs proof, then your employer can request to see this. Your employer can ask anything they like, unless it is seen to be discriminatory.
EdV - 9-Feb-18 @ 2:30 PM
My boss has been arkward towards me for a little while now is demanding to see ( in tablet form and box what medication I’m on And when I take it - do I have to do that or what can I do - cos I just think it’s a way of getting rid of meplease Help
CJ - 2-Feb-18 @ 9:12 PM
I had a fall out with a shift supervisor about him discussing my medical condition with other employee'sin the office I complained about his conduct to my employer in writing and nothing was done. Later in the year I had some sick time and then interviewed about this event by the same person that I complained about he had access to what drugs I'm on to manage my condition I am not happy that that man had that access I think that my employer has broken the data protection act could someone please explain to me is this so.
Spill - 19-Dec-17 @ 5:28 PM
I've recently stopped taking my antidepressants when I found out I was pregnant, my employer keeps telling me I need to go back on my medication even though it could kill my child. She is persistent in telling my I'm paranoid and I need my medication. Is this legal??
Jayee - 24-Nov-17 @ 8:15 PM
Nellie - Your Question:
I have chronic depression and anxiety which I am being procribed medication.I was recently asked out of the blue by my manager what medication I am on, dosage and how often taken. I was also asked have I had "therapy" for the depression. Informed manager have had a couple of courses of CBT which have not been a lot of help.Have now been informed by manager there is restructuring in the department and a new team leader position is being created and my position as a Senior Credit Controller after 7 years is no longer viable.The team leader job has been earmarked for a recent addition to the department (been in department approx. 4 months and treated like already in position and my role has totally change - no longer carry any responsibility).Where do I stand with the out of blue request for my medical details and the restructuring of the department. To me this smacks very much of "being put out to pasture (I'm 59 this year).Any help or guidence please as I am drowning and stressing out big time because of all this.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Your employer should use a fair and objective way of selecting you for redundancy, please see the gov.uk link here which tells you what this is. If at any point, you feel you are being unfairly ousted out, you should give ACAS a call. Also, if you feel you are not being kept in the whole picture, you should speak with your employer directly, and or raise a grievance if you still feel disatisfied, please see link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 1-Sep-17 @ 12:37 PM
I have chronic depression and anxiety which I am being procribed medication. I was recently asked out of the blue by my manager what medication I am on, dosage and how often taken. I was also asked have I had "therapy" for the depression.Informed manager have had a couple of courses of CBT which have not been a lot of help. Have now been informed by manager there is restructuring in the department and a new team leader position is being created and my position as a Senior Credit Controller after 7 years is no longer viable. The team leader job has been earmarked for a recent addition to the department (been in department approx. 4 months and treated like already in position and my role has totally change - no longer carry any responsibility). Where do I stand with the out of blue request for my medical details and the restructuring of the department. To me this smacks very much of "being put out to pasture (I'm 59 this year). Any help or guidence please as I am drowning and stressing out big time because of all this.
Nellie - 31-Aug-17 @ 8:58 AM
I m an LPN who suffers from anxiety n depression. New employer requesting my official RX records and my pills ro count. On Xanax PRN and trileptal, remeron and cymbalta. Can they do this??? Never told why, but told its the law.
Red - 27-Mar-17 @ 5:50 AM
Vink- Your Question:
I have been off work following an HIV diagnosis and related cancer. I have told very few peopleAbout my status and do not feel comfortable with work knowing and told them I have cancer which is true whether or not it is caused by HIV. They have asked me to provide them with details of what medications I'm on. They will easily be able to see I am on HIV medication. Do I have to tell them?

Our Response:
You can see more regarding this matter via the Terrence Higgins Trust link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 24-Feb-17 @ 2:15 PM
I have been off work following an HIV diagnosis and related cancer. I have told very few people About my status and do not feel comfortable with work knowing and told them I have cancer which is true whether or not it is caused by HIV. They have asked me to provide them with details of what medications I'm on. They will easily be able to see I am on HIV medication. Do I have to tell them?
Vink - 23-Feb-17 @ 6:10 PM
I was prescribed hydrocodone by my dentist and i am staying at a homeless shelter in indianapolis the shelter forced me to turn over the pills to the client manager who is not a nurse and they said they would despence the pills to me so i did so when i asked for a pill the bottle label from the pharmacy was removed and a new label was put on with just my name the shelters name and how often i am to recieve my pills also there was about 8 pills missing. What should i do
Alienonedrop - 9-Jan-17 @ 11:07 PM
I work in an office and have a new team of managers. It is a big organisation but these managers have introduced new policies for my department. We now have to have a thorough return to work interview which includes asking for, and logging, full details of illnesses. For example, I was off for with a virus but separately, diagnosed with IBS. My new manager not only wrote down the medications I had taken for the virus (paracetamol) but also what the doctor said about my IBS; the fact I'd had to provide a sample; the medication prescribed for that. I also mentioned I had had a breakdown a few years ago and that I was still in counselling. My manager wrote down the frequency and the amount I pay for each session.After my last counselling appt, she wanted me to tell her why I went and how the appt was. Having questioned our HR dept, it appears this is not a pilot and nor will it be introduced across the board. Can my manager legally ask and document all this information?
Karen - 4-Jan-17 @ 10:21 PM
Should i just call acas rather than ask a question?
Dave - 23-Nov-16 @ 3:18 PM
Im a bus driver and have been prescribed medication that advises me not to drive while taking it. I have advised my employer about this, and they have asked for proof. Which I have said I will bring it in. But they have said I must continue driving. Which I'm really not happy with. I'm on probation at work and I'm worried if I don't do as they ask I will loose my job. I don't know we're I stand x
Addie - 8-Nov-16 @ 8:40 PM
I work in an office and we've just been told that we must log all medication (over the counter and prescription) via a helpline and through my line manager so that the medications team can assess and I quote, 'both the medication itself and whether the medication / medical reason for the medication could potentially affect your fitness to work'.They will also assess the underlying condition for which you are taking the medication.We already have a policy whereby it states that an employee should find out if there are likely to be side effects that might impair their work performance and safety, thus implying that it is in their onus to highlight this to a manager, but this new request seems to be one step further as it seems to cover even taking paracetamol for a headache which would proportionally make my working less safe if I refused to take the medication if I didn't want to report it! I have never been asked for this in any other job and although there are people in my industry who work in safety critical roles, it seems unnecessary to require myself to inform them of any medication I am taking.I have previously been prescribed medication for ladies issues that happen infrequently and it seems very evasive to have to inform other people and my male line manager of this when it is very personal and causes no issues to my work at all.I don't know whether they are right to ask us to supply this information because it doesn't seem right to me to inform them every time I have a headache.
Confused - 22-Jun-16 @ 4:17 PM
@Dan - I'm sure your company has to clarify why you were prescribed amphetamine-type medication if it might interfere with you doing your job and it is a banned substance. Check your contract - it should tell you what your company can and cannot do in respect of drug testing.
Rachel67 - 20-May-16 @ 9:59 AM
Hello im 45 yrs old and have been employed with a major oil company for 10 yrs. Last week I had a random drug test (follicle) and failed to disclose my current medication.Which was my fault because I always have before.This week the company doctor requested my past 12 months of prescriptions because my test was positive for amphetamine.No problem, because in 2011 I was prescribed Adderall for ADHD.But when turned in 14 months, instead of 12 months ofprescriptions they called and told me they want me to provide my doctors notes on why I was prescribed a medication 13 months.I ask did I test positive for that medication becauseFebruary2015 was the last time the med was filled because i have needed it since.The Doctor said no I did not test positive but wants my Doctors notes to understand why I was prescribed the medication.Is this legal?I have nothing to hide but when this made me angry whenI was told that if I didn't provide this information within 2 weeks I wouldn't be allowed to come to work. Can they ask for records on something over 12 months old that I don't even take anymore? I would understand if my test was positive for this medicine. Thank you for any clarification on this matter.
Dan - 19-May-16 @ 1:17 AM
aj1308 - Your Question:
Hi, We have a new manager at work (currently 30 or so people employed here) and she has been asked to cut down on sick leave, namely two people who have been abusing the service. We are all now on the Bradford Factor and some of my colleagues have been off sick recently. They ring up on a morning and told to expect a call that afternoon - they feel like they are being hounded - even if they have a sick note. They are also asked what medication they are taking and even offered hints and tips for example - a bad back. In the back to work interview they also have to go through medication. I feel this is inappropriate and wonder if I can refuse to answer such questions if I am ever off ill.

Our Response:
I think in this instance you may wish to give ACAS a call in order to make sure your company is working within the correct guidelines and also what your rights are. Your contract should specify what your company can and can't do, and if you have signed this, then you have agreed to the measures. As long as your company is acting fair and reasonably, then it can be justified - but if you think your company is over-stepping the mark, then ACAS will give you the correct information here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 6-May-16 @ 10:06 AM
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