Published on: 01 March 2018 in Industry

Medicals… humiliating experience, or tedious requirement of the job?

Reading time: 3 minutes and 55 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.

One of our members has been campaigning on this issue for the last few years, drawing on personal experiences and anecdotal evidence from both male and female colleagues. Here that member encourages other directors to think about what is and isn’t acceptable and 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…

Recognise this?

Or this?

Sound a bit 1950s? These are real and recent examples.

How does the insurance industry justify the level of information freelancers are expected to divulge for very short jobs? What percentage of claims paid out last year were for “problems with periods/breast/uterus”, “sexually-transmitted diseases”, or indeed “prostate issues”?

It’s not just the forms; unfortunately the accompanying medicals can be pretty grim too. 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 should stress that I have no issue with being open and truthful about my health as long as it’s relevant to the work. For a long time, the way I dealt with it was to 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. For the most part, this course of action hasn’t caused any problems with getting insurance and of course not all doctors are bad. We could all carry on being ‘selective’ on the forms and accept that it’s just part of the job. But it shouldn’t be. The last straw for me was three 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. Then a colleague told me of a medical where he was required to have a testicular examination.

It’s not ok.

Young people, cast and crew are being put in this position – kids, inexperienced directors and DoPs who may not have the confidence to speak out. 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 three years their broker – who turned out be a remarkable, enlightened, proactive man – has been in regular contact, sent me forms to read, review and comment on. And I’m pleased to say that Directors UK is on board too. Now, let’s get the rest of the industry there.

How you can help

1. Query any unreasonable/genuinely unnecessary questions, and bring it up with the production company/insurers

2. Ditto with questions that are sexist to either gender

3. Look at the small print; be aware of what you’re signing

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 legal@directors.uk.com

Have Your Say

Anonymous
01.03.18

Fear is the worst, they might find something that would lose you a job and simultaneously bring bad news and no chance of future work. Ok pessimistic, but it’s scary. I get hypertension and my blood pressure goes up when I’m tested. After a few goes it settles and I get through, often with a referral to visit my doctor who says I don’t have high blood pressure. Does this vetting go in in any other social ndustry?

Anonymous
02.03.18

As far as I'm aware, all sorts - from sports to advertising to pilots. The main issue here is that our jobs tend to be short term, varied, freelance etc, so the level of personal information is not appropriate and medical forms can be open to potential abuse - how did Larry Nassar (an extreme example but...) get away with it for so long? Sobering.

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