Workers compensation, information privacy and health records laws regulate the exchange of personal and health information.
Employers should understand what these laws require when handling confidential health and personal information about a worker’s work related injury and recovery.
What is health information?
Health information includes any electronic or paper-based information or opinion about a worker’s:
- physical or psychological health
- injury or employment management practices to aid their recovery at work.
Why is consent important?
By law, employers must gain consent from a worker to exchange and receive information about their health, injury and recovery. But, more importantly, this promotes good communication and transparent decision-making between the worker, the employer and the RTW team.
Good communication can increase adherence to treatment, improve long-term outcomes, hasten recovery and reduce emotional distress.
What is informed consent?
Informed consent is where a worker is given all the relevant information before consenting to the release and exchange of information. It ensures the worker understands the benefits of providing consent and risks of not doing so.
A worker’s consent is only genuine and valid if they have been given this information and can understand, provide and communicate their consent. This includes accommodating the needs of workers with a disability and those who do not speak English.
When requesting a worker’s written consent, employers should ensure the worker knows and understands:
- their rights and obligations
- what type of information will be exchanged
- who will be authorised to exchange and release information
- the importance and benefits of the support team being able to exchange information
- the possible impact of not providing their consent.