All successful applicants for an EU job have to undergo a medical examination before taking up duties. The medical examination is necessary for two reasons: 1) to establish that a candidate is “physically fit to perform his duties”, and 2) to establish a health baseline so that an employee would hold the European Commission or another EU institution accountable for issues that existed before starting the job.
The medical examination usually takes place 2-4 weeks before starting your employment. Attending and passing the medication examination is a prerequisite to signing your employment contract.
This article will help you to understand what to expect and how to prepare for the health check-up, as well as answer some of the most common questions.
Location and travel
The medical examination usually takes place in Brussels, but can also take place in the location of your institution if it has procured the necessary services locally. Irrespective of where the medical examination takes place, you most likely have to take a holiday and plan an extra trip there before the start of employment.
The medical examination in Brussels takes place at the European Commission’s Medical Service, building BREYDEL 2 – office 6/508, 19 avenue d’Auderghem, 1040 Brussels. It is a 10-minute walk or one metro stop away from the Schuman roundabout. The entrance is quite inconspicous so don’t walk past it. Check out the full Google Street View in advance.
What to expect?
Arrival time at the medical centre
Usually you’ll have to be at the medical examination centre at 8:00 AM as the first procedure is a blood test and the lab supposedly closes at 9AM. Because of a blood test, you are required to stop eating at 22:00 the evening before.
I arrived a 8AM sharp and there were already quite a lot of people in the queue, so if you don’t want to wait try to arrive before that. While some sources indicated that the facility opens at 8:00, it apparently is open well before that. I’d recommend to arrive at 7:30 at the latest.
Having arrived at 8:00, I was anyway finished with everything except the ophthalmologist in two hours by 10:00, including the wait in queue.
The ophtalmologist took longer than expected. I arrived at the eye doctor’s office that’s in a different building than the medical centre shortly after 10:00. I was informed that the doctor will be there only at 12:00 and there were a few people before my. I was done by about 14:00, including the wait in a queue again.
What tests are administered?
The medical examination consists of the following procedures:
- Blood test
- Urine test (sampled locally at the centre)
- Heart examination (electrocardiogram)
- X-ray of the lungs for smokers (I as a non-smoker was exempted)
- General examination (conversation with a general practitioner, stethoscope, relfex tests, etc., like at your family doctor at an annual check-up)
- Ophthalmologist (eye examination)
As the eye examination takes place in a different address some 500 meters from the medical centre, you have to walk there for the final check-up. The address is Avenue de Cortenbergh 66, Brussels. Plan at least another 1,5 to 2 hours for the eye examination as in my case there was only one doctor present and it took her around 15 minutes to deal with each patient.
Useful tip. Preserve the eye examination results. Once you start working and are enrolled in JSIS, the EU health insurance scheme, you can buy glasses and get reimbursed based on this document.
Medical examination form
Before the general examination (general check-up by a doctor) all attendants have to fill a fairly detailed health assessment form.
An older version of the form presented at the medical centre can be found here. The layout of the most current form differs slightly, but it has the same contents as the form available for download above. If you have had lots of medical procedures or have a serious health condition, it’s best to take key documentation with you.
Expanded list of questions that might require advance preparation
The examination questionnaire is fairly detailed. There are plenty of questions, where, if you happen to have a particular condition, it wouldn’t be possible to recall the necessary information from the top of your head.
This is a list of questions you probably should go through a week before the medical examination. I suggest that you write down the answers so as to have them available on the medical examination day.
- Has any of your family members (father, mother, siblings) suffered from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, mental illness, neurological disorders?
- Give details of any medical condition for which you are currently being treated.
- Have you ever been treated in a hospital or at a clinic? Where, when and for what reason?
- Have you ever undergone surgery? Specify nature of operation(s) and date(s).
- Have you ever been absent from work for more than a month because of ilness? When? What was the ilness?
- Do you have a partial permanent incapacity for work following an accident or illness? When? Nature of the disability?
- Have you ever consulted a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst or psychotherapist? When? Nature of the disability?
- Have you ever undergone treatment for alcohol or drug addiction?
- Do you regularly take any medication, including oral contraceptives?
- Have you ever undergone radiological or nuclear medicine examinations? Which examinations?
- Have you undergone courses of radiotherapy or chemotherapy? Specify treatments.
- Have you ever had an industrial accident or suffered from an occupational disease?
- List any occupational or other hazards to which you have been exposed?
As you see, lots of information is requested as part of the examination, part of it can be quite detailed. If you answer with a “YES” to any of the questions, you are requested to indicate when the disorder/disease/incident/procedure took place and other details. Be sure to download and check the form at least a week before your visit at the medical centre as you might need to hunt down health documentation to be able to fill out the form completely. Most institutions’ HR units don’t mention that the information requested will be this detailed.
Consequences of the European Commission medical examination
Article 28 (e) of the Staff Regulations states that a candidate must be “physically fit to perform his duties”. So, theoretically, one can fail the physical evaluation. However, in practice, the European Commission and other EU institutions and agencies are equal opportunities employers and have a fairly high threshold when it comes to health issues.
What if I have a disability?
A serious medical condition or a disability is not a reason to avoid applying for a job at the European Commission or another EU institution.
If a person “can perform the essential functions of the job when reasonable accommodation is made” he/she has passed the European Commission standard of qualification for a general office job post. ‘Reasonable accommodation’ in this regard means appropriate measures in relation to the essential functions of the job so that the person with a disability can have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. (Source: Article 1d(4) of Staff Regulations).
In practice this might mean that you cannot work as a security guard if you have a particular physical disability that does not allow you to perform typical duties of the job. However, with the same disability you would qualify as an office worker where your main work instruments are your brain and a laptop. I’ve had at least one colleague with a serious physical disability, but it was no issue for the person to fulfill the tasks of an AD5 temporary agent.
Access to some benefits restricted for 5 years
While persons with a serious ilness and disability are entitled to coverage by JSIS, the European Commission health insurance scheme, there is a limitation if the condition existed before taking up an EU job.
Where the medical examination made before an official takes up his duties shows that he is suffering from sickness or invalidity, the appointing authority may, in so far as risks arising from such sickness or invalidity are concerned, decide to admit that official to guaranteed benefits in respect of invalidity or death only after a period of five years from the date of his entering the service of the Union.Article 1 of Annex VIII to the Staff Regulations
In practice this means that a new EU institutions employee would be able to benefit from a number of social security measures after he/she has been in a job for five years. These suspended benefits would include at least the following:
- Insurance against the risk of death and of invalidity occurring during employment
- Entitlement to an early pension due to an occupational safety hazard
- Survivor’s pension for one’s spouse and orphan’s pension for a child
Failure to show up or not taking the job despite passing the medical examination
If you do not undergo the medical examination at the set date without a strongly justified reason, the particular EU institution will most likely withdraw its job offer. If for some justified reason you are not able to attend the medical examination, inform the respective institution’s HR unit immediately, try to agree on a different examination date and document and present the reasons why you were not able to attend the medical examination at the initial date.
If you undergo the medical examination and cover the associated travel and other costs, but end up not taking the job, the particular EU institution will most likely not reimburse you for the costs associated with attending the medical check-up.
You do not have to pay for any of the costs directly associated with the medical examination. It is indeed free of charge and you get the benefit of a thorough health check.
Travel and subsistence costs related to the medical examination will be reimbursed by your prospective employer. However, you have to initially pay for you travel, accommodation and subsistence costs out of your own pocket, and then to submit proof of payment to your institution’s HR unit along with any requested forms (usually, Application for Reimbursement of Travel and Subsistence Expenses, Legal Entity form, Financial Identification form). The forms will be provided by the institution’s HR unit.
Main reimbursement conditions
- Reimbursement of travel expenses generally has a limit of 750 EUR regardless of where the applicant flies from;
- You will be reimbursed only if the distance between the place of residence (as stated in the application form) and the examination centre is over 150 km;
- You can travel by air only if the distance by rail exceeds 500 km (where a sea crossing is necessary, the 500 km limit does not apply);
- Economy flights and other means of transport are preferred by the institutions. If you buy an expensive ticket, be certain that you can justify your choice (i.e., had to fly out after work, no other alternatives);
- Taxi, parking fees and urban transport expenses are usually not reimbursed; these have to covered from the daily allowance amount;
- You can travel with private car, but check the particular rules of reimbursement, including the necessary proof of payment for gas;
- If you are unsure of the rules or have any doubts about travel expenses, get in touch with the institution’s representative that arranged your medical examination.
EU institutions usually offer a subsistence allowance / per diem of EUR 50 per day if the medical centre is at least 150 km from you place of residence. You are expected to cover accommodation (hotel) costs from this amount so either be prepared to sleep in shoddy hotels or get in touch with friends in Brussels.
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