Fed-up NSW doctor blasts Aussie bosses over sick day policy

A fed-up doctor has hit out at Australian bosses who require their staff to provide medical certificates for short absences from work, saying he “didn’t apply” to be a GP to provide documentation to employers.

Dr Max Mollenkopf, who owns a GP practice in Newcastle, NSW, said he sees two or three patients a day who do not need treatment but need a medical certificate to work, taking up patients’ time.

“If someone is sick and wants to see me, I want them to be able to come every day of the week,” said Dr. Mollenkopf ABC.

“I didn’t apply to medicine to do HR policy on behalf of big corporations.”

Carys Chan, a senior lecturer in organizational behavior and human resources at Griffith University, said the medical certificate requirement was important for employers as it could prevent workers from abusing sick leave.

“If they are going to pay their employee sick leave, some employers will have the right to know that you are really sick,” she said. ABC.

dr. Chan said missing working days, particularly in customer-facing roles, can be “quite disruptive” to the wider team.

Under current workplace law, employers may require employees to provide evidence of “absence of only one day or less.”

“An employee who fails to provide proof to their employer when requested may not be entitled to sick leave or carer’s leave pay,” the Fair Work Ombudsman states on its website.

If the employee does not provide proof upon request, he may not be entitled to sick leave.

In the UK, employees are not required to provide documentation from a health professional if they have taken seven days or less of absence from work under their ‘self-certification’ system.

When the employee returns to work, the employer can ask him for confirmation that he was on sick leave, which he can provide by e-mail or via a form.

Mollenkopf said the system would help save GPs valuable time if implemented in Australia.

“People who want to admit their 18-month-old child who has an ear infection now have to go to the emergency department or find an urgent care center or go through all these other steps because there’s a staff member sitting there to get a piece of paper to make their employer happy.”

“Can my boss make sure I get a doctor’s note every time I’m on sick leave?”

Alison and Jillian Barrett are principals at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. They recently responded to a news.com.au reader who asked if it was legal for the workplace to require you to get a sick note every time you get sick.

Lawyers said the Fair Work Act governs your rights and conditions of employment, including your sick leave policy. There is national legislation (National Employment Standards or NES) that applies to all employees covered by the national employment relations system. According to the NES, full-time employees receive 10 days each year (proportionately for part-time employees).

If you are covered by a modern award or registered contract, this may outline when you need to provide evidence relating to sick leave and what type of evidence is required.

Alternatively, your employment contract or employer policy will provide some guidance, so refer to these documents.

Employers can generally ask their employees to provide evidence that the leave was taken because: you were unable to work due to injury or illness or you had to provide care or support to an immediate family or household member (due to their illness, injury or unexpected emergencies affecting them).

The employer can request proof of any period of absence from work, even if it is only one day.

If you do not provide this evidence when requested, you may not be entitled to sick or carer’s leave pay.

Nevertheless, the type of evidence required must be reasonable in the circumstances.

So, for example, if you work in a healthcare setting and your employer says you can’t work if you have a sore throat – even though you’re not otherwise ‘sick’ – it may be unreasonable for them to expect you to attend a GP for a medical certificate.

Another piece of evidence that may be acceptable is a legal declaration, especially if you are unable to see a doctor.

Pharmacy pharmacists can also issue a Certificate of Absence from Work, if this is within their competence and expertise, for example minor illnesses. However, they are not obliged to provide a certificate and can refer you to a doctor for this purpose. Often pharmacists will limit the receipt to one working day.

If you feel that you are being treated unfairly, or that your boss is treating you unfavorably in more ways than requiring a medical certificate for absence from work, then this may constitute bullying. You can contact your trade union (if you are a member), the Fair Work Ombudsman or a lawyer for further information and advice.

This legal information in this article is general in nature and should not be considered or relied upon as specific legal advice. Persons requiring specific legal advice should consult an attorney.

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