Do you need a medical certificate for taking one day off work?

Do you need a medical certificate for taking one day off work?

Knowing when to get a medical certificate for work can be tricky, especially since most employers don’t talk about their sick leave policy. While there are legalities around medical certificates, in practice it really depends on the policy your workplace has set.

Employees (except for casuals) have the right to paid sick leave if they are unable to work due to injury or illness. While you should let your employer know if you won’t be coming into work that day, you might not necessarily have to produce a medical certificate – it really depends on your employer.

What the law says

An employee must meet the requirements outlined in the Australian Fair Work Act in order to be entitled to receive paid personal leave. These requirements are really quite simple – an employee must give notice as soon as possible to the employer, and let them know what the expected duration of their leave is.

So, you don’t need a certificate?

Only if your employer asks you to obtain one. There isn’t a minimum period of time an employee should take off before an employer can ask them for evidence of the injury or illness. But the Act says that in order to qualify for paid leave, evidence must be provided if the employer requests it.

Again, it comes down to your employer. Your employer might want a medical certificate for a single day of sick leave, or they might not. Obtaining evidence for a single day off is uncommon however, as it tends to be a hassle for both the employee and the employer. Policing medical certificates can be time-consuming and costly for a business. And obtaining evidence if a person is at home sick with a stomach bug, for instance, can be difficult.

As such, it often comes down to practicalities. Employers should use flexibility and common sense with their sick leave policy and ensure that all staff are educated and given a copy of the policy to keep. This will help to minimise the impacts of personal leave and help employers appropriately deal with issues that can arise when an employee does not comply with policy.

Can a medical certificate be challenged?

Technically, but this is not common practice – the vast majority of medical certificates are genuine, and challenging evidence risks costing employers money. Legally, medical certificates should only be challenged in exceptional circumstances, such as if an employee repeatedly takes time off in a way that seems dubious. Otherwise, an employer risks getting in legal trouble – they might be charged with discrimination or some other offence.

Knowing when to call in sick

Sometimes it can be hard to make the call as to whether to stay home or go to work. You might ask yourself, “Am I sick enough?”. In most cases, it comes down to common sense – if you’re vomiting, feel faint, and can hardly get out of bed, you should probably stay at home. However, often people go to work when they are sick with a cold, and this is not ideal. If you have a runny nose, cough, sore throat and especially if you have a fever, it is best to stay home to avoid infecting your co-workers.

To summarise, the requirements for getting a medical certificate depend on your employer, so check with them to find out what their sick leave policy is. In most cases, you don’t need to get evidence for taking a single day off work, but check with your employer to be sure. Your employer should not challenge your medical certificate except in exceptional circumstances – or unless you tell them that you are taking the day to go to a footy match.

If you want to speak to a doctor today about a medical certificate, login and request a consult on the Instant Consult app.

by Instant Consult