Introduction to this document

Medical examination request to independent doctor

It’s possible to fairly dismiss an employee on the ground of lack of capability due to ill health but first you must take all reasonable steps to find out the current medical position. This involves obtaining a medical report. A strong alternative to approaching the employee’s own GP, specialist or consultant is to instruct an independent doctor.

Medical evidence

Before contemplating dismissing an employee on capability grounds due to long-term ill health, you must first take all reasonable steps to find out the current medical position. This will necessarily involve either obtaining a medical report from the employee’s own GP, specialist or consultant, using our Letter to Doctor Requesting Medical Report and Letter Requesting Consent to Obtain Medical Report, or asking them to undergo a medical examination by an independent doctor, such as an occupational health expert, that you appoint specifically for the purpose. It’s this latter case that’s covered by our Medical Examination Request to Independent Doctor. Use it in conjunction with our Letter Requesting Attendance at a Medical Examination. You can also use our letter for persistent short-term sickness absences to establish whether the employee has an underlying medical condition which could be responsible for their high level of intermittent sickness absence. The main downside of appointing an independent doctor is that they won’t have access to the employee’s medical history, but the advantages are that the provisions of the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 don’t apply where the doctor isn’t, or hasn’t been, responsible for the employee’s clinical care, they will be entirely independent and unbiased, and you can appoint someone with particular expertise in health at work matters.

Letter contents

Our letter includes a request for both a medical examination and the production of a written medical report and it should be accompanied by the employee’s signed consent form. It asks the doctor to answer some relevant questions when writing that report, covering the nature of the employee’s medical condition and its effects on their ability to perform their job, the prognosis for their future employment and workplace adjustments. Make sure you include information about the employee’s job title and a detailed list of their main job duties. Medical investigation is an essential limb of any fair incapacity dismissal.

Disability discrimination

A medical report may also be helpful in establishing whether the employee has a disability under the Equality Act 2010. This will be the case for both long-term and persistent short-term illnesses, both of which could stem from a disability. This is important because, as well as the risk of an unfair dismissal claim following an ill-health dismissal, there’s the added risk of the employee bringing a disability discrimination claim. Disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment” which has “a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [an employee’s] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.