Progress on occupational health assessments

Fórsa has been advised by the Department of Education and Skills that it has changed the terms of the Medmark occupational health assessments as they apply to those staff classified as ‘high risk’ and and ‘very high risk’. Medmark is to conduct a review of their initial assessment by a different occupational health doctor upon request, and will now consider if staff with ‘high risk’ conditions should be advised against returning to work.

The union last week highlighted the difficulties faced by many classroom based staff with underlying health conditions that could place them at a higher risk of serious illness should they contract Covid-19.

Fórsa Head of Education Andy Pike said “This represents a change in policy as the initial occupational health assessments were only to determine if an employee fell into to the ‘very high risk’ category. Many staff with serious ‘high risk’ conditions were told to report to work, even where specialist consultant opinion advised against a return to work,” he said.

Review process

In correspondence sent to Fórsa yesterday (Monday), the department said the outcome of the risk categorisation is governed by the HSE guidance: “However, Medmark retains the discretion to place someone into the higher risk group if they feel they have more than one complaint and that their combination of risks warrants a higher categorisation. No individual is placed at a lower level of risk than that set out by the HSE standards.

“In terms of the employer, there is an obligation on them to go through the Covid response plan in the school and ensure that all appropriate risk mitigation measures are in place.

“Where an individual feels that they have been placed in an incorrect risk category a review process has been put in place by Medmark.”

In order to request a review, Fórsa members affected are advised to contact Medmark via email and to request a review with “Risk Assessment Review” in the subject box of their email. Anyone seeking a review has the further option of adding additional medical evidence and should include their name and date of birth.

The department advised that the review will be undertaken by a team of four specialist occupational physicians who re-evaluate the medical evidence and deliver a consensus opinion on the risk categorisation. If someone is considered borderline, Medmark has indicated that it is highly likely they will be given higher categorisation.

A step forward

Andy said the change in policy, allowing staff with ‘high risk’ conditions to have fresh assessments, is a step forward: “We encourage all affected members to request a review. There are still outstanding issues to discuss with the department on how schools are treating staff with underlying health conditions, including the availability of PPE.”

Related: Classroom staff Covid dispute referred to WRC (26th August)

To request a review of your occupational health assessment by Medmark:

Contact and add “Risk Assessment Review” in the subject box of your email. You have the option of attaching any additional medical evidence and you should include your name and date of birth.

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