Published on: 01 March 2018 in Opinion
Medicals… humiliating experience, or tedious requirement of the job?
Reading time: 3 minutes and 47 seconds
In light of recent industry revelations about abuse and sexual harassment, it’s been good to see the BBC get ahead of the curve on another situation that’s potentially open to abuse: the work-related insurance medical and associated forms.
Drawing on her own experiences and anecdotal evidence from both male and female colleagues, director Delyth Thomas has been campaigning on this issue for many years. Here she encourages members to think about what is and isn’t acceptable and also explains why things may finally be improving.
Have you read the small print that can permit insurers to access and retain your entire medical records? Can you remember and list your every single visit to a doctor, the problem, diagnosis and treatment in the last five years/ever?
Think about the data protection issues when considering how many folk have access to these forms.
Then there are the sexist bits: breasts, uterus, tubes and periods are a terrible risk apparently. And how is it ok to ask if you’ve ever had a sexually transmitted disease? Whaaaaat the ffffffffff…
Sound a bit 1950s? These are real and recent examples.
I had to wise up early on in my career after an appalling experience at a medical for a breakthrough directing gig when I didn’t know better. I have no issue in being open and truthful about my health as long as it’s relevant to the work, so I now cross out anything unreasonable, irrelevant or sexist, decline to remove my clothes and rewrite the small print so no one can access my medical records without my written consent. Here’s the thing: to my knowledge, I’ve never been refused insurance. However, the last straw was two years ago when a dodgy doctor threatened to write me up as unfit for work if I didn’t “strip to my underwear”. I declined.
To be fair not all doctors are bad, we can carry on being ‘selective’ on the forms and accept that it’s just part of the job. But it shouldn’t be. It’s not ok. Young people are being put in this position – kids, inexperienced directors and DoPs who may not find it easy to speak out or walk away like I did. It’s not acceptable to be told time after time, “it’s just what insurers require” or “contact the Medical council”. So, in the spirit of a post-Savile open BBC, I tried (again) to flag up the problem.
This time, my email landed in front of the Head of BBC Insurance just as they were about to conduct a review. It seemed to shake things up. Good. I’m happy to say that for the last two years their broker – who turned out be a remarkable, enlightened, proactive man – has been in regular contact, sent me forms to read, review, comment on, and now Directors UK is on board too. It’s an ongoing process. There are still improvements to be made but thank you BBC for finally acting and being ahead of the curve. Now, let’s get the rest of the industry there.
Delyth’s also prepared a short list of steps that you can take to make sure broadcasters and production companies know what is and isn’t ok:
How you can help
1. Strike out any unreasonable/genuinely unnecessary questions
2. Ditto with questions that are sexist to either gender
3. Look at the small print; be aware of what you’re signing (if necessary I’ll add ‘in the event of an emergency or claim only, I give permission to access medical records…’)
4. Let Donna Thomas (Head of Legal at Directors UK) know if you encounter any problems, whether it’s a dodgy doctor or a dodgy form. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org