Why the Necessity for Pre-Employment Checkups?

young male doctor examining a female patient

In Singapore, as in many countries, one of the requirements for obtaining a work permit is a pre-employment medical checkup. This practice raises ethical questions about the treatment of foreign workers and the necessity of such examinations. This article looks into the ethical considerations surrounding mandatory medical checkups for foreign workers seeking employment in Singapore.

The Rationale Behind Pre-Employment Medical Checkups

Pre-employment medical checkups are often mandated by governments to ensure that foreign workers entering the country are in good health. Migrant workers are seen to be at a higher risk for certain infectious diseases. This can be attributed to several factors including cultural barriers to healthcare access and higher disease prevalence in the countries of origin.

Ethical Concerns in Pre-Employment Medical Checkups

Mandatory medical checkups can lead to discrimination based on health conditions. Foreign workers may face stigmatization or even job rejection based on health issues that may not necessarily impact their ability to perform the job.

Requiring detailed medical examinations raises concerns about the invasion of privacy. Workers may feel uncomfortable sharing personal health information, especially when it may not directly relate to their job responsibilities.

There’s a risk that these medical requirements may create unequal treatment between foreign and local workers. Such disparities can be perceived as unfair, especially if similar health assessments are not required for local employees.

Ethical Best Practices in Pre-Employment Medical Checkups

Ensuring transparency about the purpose of medical examinations and obtaining informed consent from workers can address concerns related to privacy. Workers should be fully aware of the reasons behind these checkups and how the information will be used. 

The medical examinations should be relevant to the job requirements, ensuring that only essential health information is requested. This also ensures that employers are best able to determine if their employees are fit to work in that specific job and will not be placed in a risky situation because of any pre-existing health conditions. Unnecessary tests or inquiries may be considered invasive and ethically questionable.

Employers should adopt non-discrimination policies, emphasizing that hiring decisions will not be solely based on health conditions. This can help mitigate concerns related to discrimination and stigmatization. 

Having a blanket policy that all migrant workers are required to have a pre-employment health screening in Singapore also ensures a more consistent assessment of an employee’s health. This is because all medical practitioners practicing in Singapore undergo the same assessments before they are certified as a medical practitioner. 

Laboratories conducting the blood analysis are also upheld to the same standards across the country. Therefore, this policy does not discriminate against any one group of foreign workers but instead enforces the same standards across to ensure that all workers entering Singapore are healthy and will be able to perform their jobs in a safe manner.

Singapore’s Regulatory Framework

In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) oversees the regulations related to work permits. MOM requires certain groups of foreign workers, such as those in the construction and marine sectors, to undergo medical examinations to assess their fitness for work.

While the regulatory framework is in place to protect public health and ensure a fit workforce, it is essential for employers and healthcare providers to approach these checkups with ethical considerations in mind.

Ethical Challenges and Considerations

The challenge lies in striking a balance between protecting public health and respecting the rights of individual workers. Policymakers and employers must carefully consider the necessity and implications of each health requirement.

Understanding the cultural nuances surrounding health and privacy is crucial. Some workers may come from societies where discussing health matters is considered private, and mandatory medical checkups may be perceived as intrusive.

Incorporating the expertise of healthcare professionals in designing pre-employment medical checkup requirements ensures that the assessments are both effective and ethical. A collaborative approach can help tailor the examinations to be relevant and respectful.

While the necessity of pre-employment medical checkups for foreign workers is recognized, striking a balance between public health protection and ethical considerations is crucial. Employers, policymakers, and healthcare providers should collaborate to ensure fair and respectful treatment of all workers, regardless of their origin.

Seeking Ethical Healthcare in Singapore

For ethical healthcare practices in Singapore, visit Keystone Clinic & Surgery. We prioritize the well-being of individuals, ensuring that healthcare services are delivered with integrity and respect for individual rights.


Ministry of Manpower. 2023. Medical Examination for Migrant Worker. https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-worker/sector-specific-rules/medical-examination

Talentport.com. 2024. Work Permit Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide for Foreign Workers. https://talentport.com/blog/work-permit-singapore

Ministry of Manpower. 2023. Work Permit Conditions. https://www.mom.gov.sg/passes-and-permits/work-permit-for-foreign-worker/sector-specific-rules/work-permit-conditions

Academic.oup.com. 2017. Infectious Diseases and Migrant Worker Health in Singapore: A Receiving Country’s Perspective. https://academic.oup.com/jtm/article/24/4/tax014/3095986?login=true

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