Employers' Council defends employer's right to require doctor's notes
Last week the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA) sent a letter
to its members announcing the organization has formally adopted the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) policies on Short-Term Illness Certificate and Third-Party Forms: The Physician's Role, and have asked physicians in the province to follow the principles of these policies. The NLMA also
created a new standard Third- Party Requested Medical Certificate form for all employers' requests for short-term illness notes for illness and non-work related injuries. The NLEC was not consulted in the adoption of these policies or the development of this form.
Policies address some issues raised by the NLEC in the past
The NLEC has, in the past, raised employer's concerns regarding doctor's notes with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, primarily regarding physician's unnecessarily putting employees off work for extended periods of time, not providing adequate information to employers to manage return-to-work or substantiate illness, and notes being provided when the doctor had not treated the patient, or the patient was no longer sick. Some of the changes or clarifications made in the adoption of these policies may address such concerns, including the adoption of a standard Third-Party Medical Certificate form and recognition that physicians should no longer provide medical certificates unless the patient has been under the care of the physician.
The NLEC is concerned however, that the NLMA is advising doctors that they should no longer provide medical certificates unless the patient has been off work for at least five days. The NLEC understands and respects concerns regarding efficient use of health care resources, the impact on wait times for patients, and preventing the spread of infections. Employers should continue to be reasonable and flexible in requests for short term illness certificates for self-limiting illnesses and take these new policies under consideration.
NLMA policies are voluntary
The NLEC advises members that NLMA policies are voluntary guidelines for physicians. The Labour Standards Act (Section 43.11 (2)) states that an employee shall provide his or her employer with a certificate from a qualified medical practitioner for a period of three or more consecutive days of sick leave. Your collective agreement may also contain provisions requiring a medical certificate for consecutive absences that are shorter than the NLMA's new policy. The NLMA acknowledges this, and has advised physicians they should use their discretion when the patient is a member of a union subject to such an agreement.
NLEC encouraging doctors to cooperate
The NLEC has spoken to the NLMA and has been in the media encouraging physicians to cooperate and provide employers with the information needed to effectively manage absenteeism and return employees to work. This includes the provision of doctor's notes for absences due to illnesses less than five days, where necessary. The NLEC will continue to make representation to both the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the NLMA on this issue.
Member employers impacted by these changes are encouraged to contact Jaclyn Sullivan at the NLEC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 709-368-6532 x 225 with your feedback on these policies.