A medical certificate for work is a valued and vital document that specifics why an individual was absent for their employment.
By stipulating the details that explains why a professional could not be present, they are covered for sick leave if that is afforded to them through a full-time contract.
Yet there are some rules and principles that not all parties understand in 2018, leading to confusion and angst in certain quarters where shortcuts and missteps are taking place.
To ensure that there is transparency across the board from employer to employee, we will examine a series of key questions about the medical certificate.
Can Employers Ask For Medical Details?
Yes. It is correct to say that an employer can be in a position to ask for further details about a medical certificate for work if that information is left out of a form or if the details are vague and ambiguous. However, workers in Australia are protected to privacy and have the right to leave that information off the form if they believe that is the best course of action.
That does not protect them from being asked follow up questions though, placing an unwanted pressure on the employee if they fail to be transparent in this instance. It will only be a natural turn of events for questions to be asked about the nature of the absence, even if the form is delivered from a certified medical professional.
What Needs to be Included on the Certificate?
There are a number of fundamental elements that have to be listed on a medical certificate for work. Whilst no two forms are the same and there will be unique templates and paper documenting at play, this is what must be listed in black and white:
- Name of the medical professional
- Address of their practice
- Date of the exam
- Expected/documented time off work
- Name of the patient
- Possible details of the ailment/injury that explains the absence (not mandatory)
- Date and signature from the doctor
Do Casual Employees Need a Certificate?
In the majority of instances there is no need for a medical certificate for work to be obtained from a casual employee. These are often shift workers who have to position themselves to be available for those slots, and being absent will just allow another individual to take that time period. Casual’s can take unpaid sick leave, but their rate of pay is usually loaded to incorporate and compensate for any absence. In short, the answer is generally no but there can be rare exceptions.
Do All Medical Appointments Need to be Documented?
The short response to this question is no. A medical certificate for work does not have to be issued following a chiropractic visit, a dental consultation or an optometrist appointment for example. The policy on leave in this instance is that a document must be handed in if they had a medical issue that forced their own absence, or if it positioned them to care or support someone close to them. An employer can request a certificate for even a couple of hours of absence within one day, but there are medical appointments that do not necessitate a form being issued.
Does a Certificate Need to be Handed in Immediately?
A medical certificate for work does not have to be handed into the office or work environment from day one of the return. However, the longer an employee delays the return of a form that documents their absence, the more they are vulnerable to missing out on sick leave pay and the potential to be asked serious follow up questions emerges.
What has to occur is that any form outlines the dates of the leave, and this can be issued in the days following a return. In an ideal world, a professional would return to the workplace with that piece of paper in hand ready to be filed for the HR and billing departments respectively.
Only in extreme circumstances can an employer find legal grounds to fire an employee. The medical certificate for work would not cover an absence that lasted beyond 3 months within a 12-month working period in most instances, because that degree of incapacity would make their position virtually untenable without genuine cause.
What is evident with this question is the circumstances around an illness or injury and whether or not the organisation has the willingness and patience to continue with a contract. In essence, the short response to this query is yes, but only following an extensive leave period where there are minimal grounds to maintaining the relationship.
If you believe that there are extenuating circumstances where your specific question or query about a medical certificate for work has not been addressed, it would be advised to follow up with the Medical Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct. This is a body that helps to formulate important guidelines that are centered around privacy and codes of practice that are essential from all parties.
These matters can always be managed though assuming that there is a healthy and open dialogue between employee and employer. It is when those relationships break down that issues arise and disputes manifest themselves.
Fergus Murray is the lead editor for Business News Ledger. Fergus has been working as a freelance journalist for nearly a decade having published stories in the New York Times, The Plain Dealer, The Daily Mail and many others. Fergus is based in Detroit and covers issues affecting his city and New York State. When he is not busy writing, Fergus enjoys jogging.