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Can Employer Demand to See Prescribed Medication Details?

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 27 Mar 2017 | 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 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
Addie - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
This is a tricky situation. In this case I would speak to your GP about this, as you really need some professional back-up here. You need professional verification as to whether you can drive or not (as you will not be insured if it is deemed you cannot) and could be held personally liable should anything untoward happen i.e an accident while driving. If the medication does not allow you to drive, your doctor will sign you off. While your employer is in the wrong for requesting you drive while under the influence, if you are on probabtion, and if your employer feels you are unable to do your job properly, you can be dismissed. I would hope your employer will give you some grace (i.e if you are on medication for a week or so, then your employer may be understanding). If the medication is long term, then it would be understandable if your employer chooses to withdraw your contract if you cannot do the job you are employed to do. Unfortunately, you are between a rock and a hard place here, but although it's a difficult situation, it is better to be safe than sorry.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 9-Nov-16 @ 1:55 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
Confused - Your Question:
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.

Our Response:
I can only suggest you look at your contract and see what it specifies regarding this. You may also wish to give ACAS a call to see if your company is within its rights to go to this extent or likewise the ICO via the link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 23-Jun-16 @ 11:52 AM
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
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.
aj1308 - 5-May-16 @ 8:08 AM
Put Name Here - Your Question:
I have hit a trigger point with my employer and now been placed on a capability absence management plan stage 1. This came about due to time off for toe surgery and getting pneumonia within a 12-month period. While in hospital for pneumonia, it was discovered I had hypertension. My Dr is working hard to control my hypertension and have been prescribed various medication and now currently on three sets of medication (none are endorsed with do not drive or operate machiney). Part of my absence plan is not to have more than 10 days off over the next 12 months. Another part is the supervisor, head of my department and HR have requested I supply them with a list of my medications, and any future changes my Dr prescribes within this 12 month period, purely on the grounds if I was taken ill at work they would be able to provide medical staff information of my meds. I have a next of kin for such information and lastly I work shifts including nights and the management do not work nights, including supervisors, so surely this defeats the object of requiring the information.For me personally I find this intrusive sickness management, I believe this is something private between my Dr and me. I have little confidence in my management and as the saying goes, some of them can’t hold their own water, never mind mine and hate the thought of being subject to regular discussion.I am unable to locate any HR information relating to disclosing prescribed medication, hope you can help.

Our Response:
I think in this case you would have to give ACAS a call to see what rights your employer has to request this information.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 21-Apr-16 @ 11:53 AM
I have hit a trigger point with my employer and now been placed on a capability absence management plan stage 1. This came about due to time off for toe surgery and getting pneumonia within a 12-month period. While in hospital for pneumonia, it was discovered I had hypertension. My Dr is working hard to control my hypertension and have been prescribed various medication and now currently on three sets of medication (none are endorsed with do not drive or operate machiney). Part of my absence plan is not to have more than 10 days off over the next 12 months. Another part is the supervisor, head of my department and HR have requested I supply them with a list of my medications, and any future changes my Dr prescribes within this 12 month period, purely on the grounds if I was taken ill at work they would be able to provide medical staff information of my meds. I have a next of kin for such information and lastly I work shifts including nights and the management do not work nights, including supervisors, so surely this defeats the object of requiring the information. For me personally I find this intrusive sickness management, I believe this is something private between my Dr and me. I have little confidence in my management and as the saying goes, some of them can’t hold their own water, never mind mine and hate the thought of being subject to regular discussion. I am unable to locate any HR information relating to disclosing prescribed medication, hope you can help.
Put Name Here - 20-Apr-16 @ 1:11 PM
maddog473- Your Question:
Hi. I've tried to research the answers I'm seeking but to no avail. I've been with my employer for 12 months. I am a sufferer of migraine and have had a couple of days off when hot with one of these blighters. Over the last couple months work have been great when my father took I'll with lymphoma. Giving me time off on a rare occasion it was absolutely necessary. Since I took this job I have never been provided a work phone. All emails calls and txts are dealt with from my own private phone. As a health and safety officer I have to take lots of photographs, again, done on my phone as not been given a camera but it is absolutely vital pictures are provided. The last 2 days I've been struck by a migraine. I emailed and called in as required. Yesterday I received 7 calls in my own personal phone, which I had silenced as I was sleeping. When I looked at the content of the calls and texts I was shocked to see a suggestion that I should stay home and do report work from the manager. Report work would be written work, on a laptop, for which I wear glasses, an absolute impossibility for a migraine sufferer. I didn't respond to any of the emails texts or calls. Today I've again let them know I'm still struck down, to receive several more calls texts and emails. Is this actually allowed ? Can they hold it against me for not responding to my personal phone and while I'm off sick ?I feel a little harassed and they're stressing me out more than the migraine did. Please help

Our Response:
I think in this case it may be advisable to give ACAS a call. While you should keep in regular contact with your employer to keep them updated if you are off sick, your employer should not be trying to force work upon you. ACAS will also be able to answer your other questions also.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 4-Dec-15 @ 2:33 PM
Hi . I've tried to research the answers I'm seeking but to no avail. I've been with my employer for 12 months. I am a sufferer of migraine and have had a couple of days off when hot with one of these blighters. Over the last couple months work have been great when my father took I'll with lymphoma. Giving me time off on a rare occasion it was absolutely necessary. Since I took this job I have never been provided a work phone. All emails calls and txts are dealt with from my own private phone. As a health and safety officer I have to take lots of photographs,again,done on my phone as not been given a camera but it is absolutely vital pictures are provided. The last 2 days I've been struck by a migraine.I emailed and called in as required. Yesterday I received 7 calls in my own personal phone, which I had silenced as I was sleeping. When I looked at the content of the calls and texts I was shocked to see a suggestion that I should stay home and do report work from the manager.Report work would be written work, on a laptop, for which I wear glasses, an absolute impossibility for a migraine sufferer. I didn't respond to any of the emails texts or calls. Today I've again let them know I'm still struck down, to receive several more calls texts and emails . Is this actually allowed ? Can they hold itagainst me for not responding to my personal phone and while I'm off sick ? I feel a little harassed and they're stressing me out more than the migraine did. Please help
maddog473 - 4-Dec-15 @ 11:37 AM
Sick of it - Your Question:
I have worked with my company for over a year almost two. I will be the first to admit that I do not keep particularly well and I am often Ill. However in the last eight months I have only had four absences and only for the maximum of two days. I recently had to change medication for migraines I get caused by a constant sinus infection. The week before I was given antibiotics for the throat infection so when I went to get my new painkillers I was also given more antibiotics.When I first called into work I explained about my head. Then after the GP I said about the antibiotics. My manager took this as me changing my story and even after I explained about my sinuses I was met with "well I've never heard of a headache cause by a sore throat." The manager is now demanding to see my prescriptions, do I have to provide them?

Our Response:
@sick of it- Your employers can request to see your medication if it is likely to affect your job performance. Or as specified in the article, it seems likely that the employer is concerned about health and safety. However, if your employer is asking to see your prescriptions in order to prove you have been ill, they may be crossing employment guidelines. Therefore I'd give ACAS a call in order to explain their motivations fully. You should also look in your contact to see if there is anything regarding company policy on this.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 16-Sep-15 @ 2:16 PM
I have worked with my company for over a year almost two. I will be the first to admit that I do not keep particularly well and I am often Ill. However in the last eight months I have only had four absences and only for the maximum of two days. I recently had to change medication for migraines I get caused by a constant sinus infection. The week before I was given antibiotics for the throat infection so when I went to get my new painkillers I was also given more antibiotics. When I first called into work I explained about my head. Then after the GP I said about the antibiotics. My manager took this as me changing my story and even after I explained about my sinuses I was met with "well I've never heard of a headache cause by a sore throat..." The manager is now demanding to see my prescriptions, do I have to provide them?
Sick of it - 15-Sep-15 @ 6:18 PM
@Scaper - no your employer doesn't have a right to hang on to your medication and you should request he returns it asap. If you want this explained further I would give Acas a call and they will suggest how to best approach the situation. You can call its free helpline on )300 123 1100.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 21-Jan-15 @ 2:29 PM
I recently dropped some of my meds at work. Upon request I showed my valid prescription and attained a letter from my doctor stating that it does not effect my ability to do my job In any way. My employer has not returned my medication after a number of requests. Does he have the right to hang on to my medication?
Scaper - 21-Jan-15 @ 5:38 AM
@Gina the cleaner - A Staff Suitability and Disqualification form is given so that an employer can be satisfied about the character and suitability of an employee. Apparently, one of the questions it covers, as you rightly point out, is to ask whether a member of staff is living in a household with someone who is disqualified from working with children. By association they too are disqualified from working. This applies to household members including partners, children including foster children, house share colleagues and lodgers. The National Day Nurseries Association NDNA, is the national charity and early years membership association for nurseries supplies a factsheet which explains the form in greater detail. You can see the link and the reasoning behind the formhere. I hope this helps.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 14-Nov-14 @ 11:45 AM
I've been subcontracted as a school cleaner at two different infant schools for four years each school is under two different cleaning companies. Today at just one school I was asked to fill in a staff suitability deceleration form ,every member of staff has been given one, I have a clean d.b.s. Disclosure and have had for the 8 years I've been doing this job. The questions asked are all about wether I have ever had a caution or conviction for sexual acts or violence against any child or adult , wether social services have ever been involved in my family life and if i have ever been barred from working or being near children. I do not mind answering these questions even though my d.b.s.disclosure already does that , what I don't like is they ask the same questions off my husband and children in my home, myself and my family have absolutely nothing to hide not one of us has ever seen the inside of a police station or a court room .i totally understand and support the fact all children have to be protected but then also on this form the headmistress says we are to give her permission to contact any previous settings, local authorities, the police, the d.b.s, and medical professionals, to share information about my suitability to care for children ,I personally believe my d.b.s disclosure already gives her enough information and that this is an intrusion on my rights of privacy . No where on this letter does it say we have a choice wether to sign or not and I don't believe this is a legal document , first of all I am a cleaner I have no contact with the children and seeing as she is not my employer as I'm subcontracted please could some one tell me where I stand and what they think about this thank you.
Gina the cleaner - 13-Nov-14 @ 9:58 PM
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