What the law says about medical certificates for work

What the law says about medical certificates for work

Getting a medical certificate for work when you are sick is an important part of your due diligence as an employee no matter where you are working. They act as a means of giving employees a way to provide their employers with an official document from a doctor clearing them from work for one or several days.

What law governs medical certificates in Australia?

In Australia, certificates for medical conditions are governed by the Fair Work Act (2009), which sets out in black & white that a business is required to give its employees, whether they be part-time or full-time, a set number of personal/carer’s leave days annually. Sick leave is included as part of personal/carer’s leave, which can also be used for when a family member is ill, and you need to stay home to help care for them/drive them to appointments etc.

What does the law say about certificates for medical conditions?

The Act states what requirements employers can set out in order to attain ‘evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person’ that time was taken off work for a legitimate reason. This is designed to give employers assurances that employees cannot easily abuse the sick days they are entitled to and only miss work when they are genuinely too ill to perform their job or if there’s a risk that they will spread the illness to their coworkers, which is a prominent concern for businesses during flu season.

An employer is entitled to set out their own rules for how sick leave is handled as long as it is consistent and not dealt with in an arbitrary manner that would make employees unsure about what their entitlements and obligations are. For example, an employer may set out that medical certificates for work are only needed when a sick leave is taken for multiple days in a row or on a Monday/Friday so as to deter people from trying to manufacture their own 3-day-weekend. Also, the act outlines that employees who refuse to comply with the request for evidence by their employer are not entitled to pay for the period they were absent.

A normal medical certificate also serves to protect employees from unfair scrutiny by employers who may believe their employee is ‘faking it’. Under the Act, certificates need to be accepted at face value as the final word on the matter that the employee was medically unable to work that day and that they must be paid as per normal. There is also no mechanism for an employer to call their employee’s doctor and ask questions about the illness or injury necessitating their absence.

Employers are, however, permitted to contact their employee’s doctor in order to clarify notes they have made. An example would be if a certificate said the employee had pain in their ankles, but their job required a lot of walking around, so an employer would ask the doctor if it’s safe for the employee to do their job.

Can an Employer Refuse a Doctor’s Note?

The Fair Work Act (2009) states that employers must accept medical certificates at face value and should not contact the employee’s doctor except to clarify points. However, the Australian Fair Work Commission concluded that employers can reject medical certificates if they are too vague to allow the proper discharge of legal obligations.

In particular, employers can refuse a doctor’s note or certificate if the length of time when modified working may be needed or if the certificate is submitted late. However, employers need to give employees the opportunity to provide further evidence, must communicate properly and clearly, and should seek legal advice before rejecting.


In summary, employers have the legal right to ask for a certificate for a medical condition from their employees as proof they were too ill to work and are not obligated to pay an employee who refuses to comply. Employers are also disallowed from calling a doctor as a means of second-guessing the certificate and may only ask questions related to work performance/safety.

If you need a medical certificate for work, request a consult and speak to an Instant Consult doctor today.

by Instant Consult

Source: https://www.instantconsult.com.au/what-the-law-says-about-medical-certificates-for-work