It’s cold and flu season and you’ve got a nasty bought of sneezes and wheezes that make it hard to function. You’re far from feeling on top of your game for work and you can only manage the bare essentials, then it’s back to bed.
Many workplaces in Australia are however not going to let you off the hook so easily. At least, not without a sick certificate.
A sick certificate is a document verifying that you are, in fact, bed ridden. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the awfully common common cold, nor the flu. If there’s any illness, injury or misadventure that’s caused you to be unfit for work, a registered medical practitioner may write you a statement to serve as ‘proof’ of your illness.
The sick certificate serves as evidence to satisfy a ‘reasonable’ person that you aren’t in a shape for work and thereby entitled to take personal leave accordingly. It’s assumed that the practitioner who has issued it is qualified to do so, and that following an assessment, they deem the illness or injury to indeed be the case.
A sick certificate is considered irrefutable. In the case that an employer wants to challenge this, they must independently seek an alternative medical opinion about their employee’s health.
As the cold and flu, and myriad of other types of germs are contagious, it’s in everyone’s best interest for ill employees to stay home with their Netflix and tissue boxes. As many tend to go into work over staying in when unwell, the ministry of health has in fact urged ill Australians to pick up a sick certificate and stay away.
The issuing of a sick certificate falls under the Fair Work Act 2009. Did you know that under this legislation pharmacists are now also allowed to give you one of these sacred documents?
That’s right, you can wander down to your local pharmacist (should you be fit to get out of bed, to come right back) and pick up a note giving you that sweet, sweet green light for your absence from work.
On this note, pharmacists will only issue a sick certificate for a condition that is within their scope of practice – generally minor issues. If your condition is out of their league they’ll refer you to a doctor.
And you don’t have to worry about a public spectacle. Your pharmacy will have a private area in which they can assess you, keeping everything confidential too. They’ll give you a recommendation, charge you a small fee, and you’ll be good to go. You’ll generally be covered for two days.
What’s more? There now exist online services that can issue a sick certificate online… in just five minutes!
You read right. Sydney-based sites had the vision of creating a more convenient medical system. And that’s what they did. From the comfort of home, patients can save time in obtaining this document in a few simple steps, and save the doctor’s time too…
The doctor up at the medical centre that is. These online services do however have doctors of their own, working through the website. They charge a fee for a digital consultation (not covered by Medicare), and then from there decide to issue the document – or not.
That’s not to say there aren’t concerns with both pharmacies and these online services in this regard. Employers are concerned with these documents being handed out over the counter like pain killers…
They are claimed to lack detail about the problem, stating only the timeframe of the illness. It is up to these services to treat the decision and provide more detail for these forms to be considered as solid evidence for your sickie.