A Fitness to Work Evaluation is an objective evaluation of employees’ physical and mental health relative to the working conditions and requirements of their specific job position. The purpose of a fitness to work evaluation is to confirm that the employees will not be a danger to themselves or others in the workplace. Evaluations may be performed by specialists in occupational medicine or by general practice physicians. When performing fitness to work evaluations, the physician needs to have a complete understanding of the purpose of the evaluation. The physician is required to protect and serve the interests of all three parties involved in the evaluation—the employee, the employer, and the physician.
Fitness to Work Evaluations are typically performed when an employer needs to ensure that an employee is able to safely accomplish the jobs and tasks their job requires. A Fitness to Work Evaluation is sometimes requested to evaluate medical fitness after an injury or illness. They are also sometimes requested when employment is initially offered to confirm that the individual is capable of performing the jobs and tasks required of the position.
There are different reasons an employer requests an employee to take a Fitness to Work Evaluation. One reason might be for the employer to ensure the reliability of an employee’s physical ability to perform his or her work related duties. A second reason is determine if the employee is psychologically healthy enough to remain in their employment position. If the conclusion of the Fitness to Work Evaluations is that the individual is not adequately healthy to perform all job requirements, then the physician will make recommendations on what actions he or she should take to be able to meet the demands of the position.
There are also different circumstances and conditions under which an employer will request a fitness to work evaluation. Some examples of different conditions include pre-placement, return to work, continuing disability, employee’s health insurance program, and many others. Pre-placement means that employment is contingent upon certain results from the fitness to work evaluation. When an employee returns to work following a serious injury or illness, a fitness to work evaluation assesses the person’s ability to work. An employee who has remained away from work and must be assessed for continuing workers’ compensation is asked to take a fitness to work evaluation.
When a Fitness to Work Evaluation is conducted, a position of neutrality must be taken on the physician’s part—the physician must not advocate for either the employer or the employee. A Fitness to Work Evaluation involves the assessment of the risk for self-harm, harm to others, dangerousness, and the likelihood that incidents related to work might happen again. The employee’s ability to complete work related tasks and the presence of psychological issues that may hinder the employee’s ability to complete tasks are things that are also evaluated during a Fitness to Work Evaluation.
By evaluating the employee’s fitness for duty before allowing the employee to return to work, the fitness to work evaluation protects not only the employer, but the employee as well. The employer is protected from high insurance costs and the company’s concern for employee health and safety is promoted. The employee is protected from working in an unsafe physical condition.