The colder weather marks the start of the cold and flu season where a cough or sneeze starting from one person quickly spreads throughout the whole office. The season also creates challenges for employers who may have to manage a dwindling workforce where employees (or their family members) may be struck down with an illness and need to take personal (sick) / carers leave.
To ensure that sick leave is being accessed for its intended purpose, a workplace policy or enterprise agreement may outline when an employee is required to provide medical certificates to support a period of absence for sick leave.
Most commonly, medical certificates are obtained following a face to face consultation with a General Practitioner (GP) who certifies an employee as unfit for work. However, proving that the internet is not just for Googling symptoms, technology has now made it possible for employees to obtain medical certificates (known as e-certificates) for common medical conditions in different ways – including through online consultations.
Online medical services allow for an appointment to be booked on a website or through a smartphone app. The consultation with the medical practitioner then takes place through a video call or audio call. A signed e-certificate will then be issued and available to be downloaded by the employee – all from the comfort of their home.
In a period of high absenteeism such as the cold and flu season, the emergence of this new technology is a timely reminder for employers who may be uncertain about if and when they should request medical certificates and checking the veracity of medical certificates, including e-certificates.
Our top tips regarding sick leave and medical certificates
Employers cannot and should not ask for information about the employee’s condition – that information is personal medical information and cannot be revealed by treating practitioners without an authority from the employee.
Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.
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