NUIG staff up in arms over ‘invasive’ health quiz

Questions contained in NUI Galway’s occupational health questionnaire for prospective employees have been described as “invasive”, “misogynistic” and “excessively personal”.

The university has defended its occupational health ‘pre employment health assessment’ forms which ask female job applicants about their menstrual cycle.

Among the questions asked are: “Do you suffer with any problems with your menstrual periods? Do you suffer any breast problems? Have you ever been treated for gynaecological problems?”

The questionnaire asks over 40 questions about the health of someone who has applied for, and offered, a position at the university.

It also asks if “you have ever suffered prostate problems?”

NUIG, according to the questionnaire, says that the questions are necessary to establish if the appointee is “fit for the job”.

If he or she can, “carry out the job without any undue risk to the health and safety of themselves or others at work”.

And that NUIG “will have reasonable expectation that the appointee will provide regular attendance at work until retirement”.

“The questions are invasive,” said one senior lecturer at the third level institute.

“Particularly for women, the questions are borderline misogynistic. They are such an invasion of privacy it is unbelievable. Why are the menstrual periods of women workers of concern to NUI Galway? If you answer ‘yes’ to this question, what are the consequences? It is a breach of privacy.”

NUI Galway has defended use of the forms.

In a statement NUI Galway said: “On appointment to a position the university issues an individual with a pre-employment health assessment form, among others, for completion. The form is in line with forms used for employment purposes.

“The form is completely confidential and returned by the individual to the university Occupational Health Physician directly. The HR office does not have sight of or record of the completed form.

“A confirmation is simply received of medical fitness for duty or not. The form was introduced a number of years ago by an Occupational Health Physician to replace the medical consultation on appointment.”

Gender inequality issues have been to the fore at NUIG recently. Serious concerns have been raised about the institution’s record on gender equality following Equality Tribunal findings in favour of female lecturers, Sheehy-Skeffington and Dempsey, who were discriminated against. Findings of a HEA survey on gender balance also found serious shortcomings on the part of NUIG. NUIG set up a task force to investigate equality issues but this has been criticised by staff from the outset.

Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh yesterday said in light of the string of gender balance and equality issues that have emerged at NUIG, he is “extremely concerned” at the type of “misogynist and invasive” questions contained in its occupational health assessment. “It appears excessively intrusive, and it gives rise to gender balance issues, bias and discrimination on grounds of sex and also issues of data protection,” he said.