Sick Leave: Can My Employer Request for More Detail on My Sickness after Providing a Medical Certificate?

Hi guys,

My girlfriend's new manager is requesting that people provide the exact reason for their sickness even if they provide a medical certificate. Isn't this some sort of privacy breach? Has this happened to any of you guys? What's the proper response?

If there are any lawyers in the house, would you be able to kindly point me to some sort of legal aspect of this?

Thanks a million guys.

Edit: the medical certificate contains the generic “ABC was deemed unfit for work on XX date to YY date” it is only a day or two for her and her colleague’s sick leave, not an entire week or anything.

Comments

  • +1

    Look up symptoms of a flu, back pain, etc. Tell those to your manager.
    Easy peasy.

    • +13

      The next day the manager says: "I checked out those symptoms online and it turns out you have cancer."

      • +1

        Haha that escalated quickly…

    • my work says if you are off sick for back pain you need a return to work certificate (I am not talking about workers comp). So if you say you have back pain you could be up for multiple Dr appointments.

      • Ok thanks, no it was a generic sick/unwell day. I’ve made an edit on my OP.

    • +1

      Look up symptoms of a flu, back pain

      Do you really need to look up the symptoms of back pain?

  • +7

    Fair Work state an employer are entitled to reasonable evidence that a person is unable to work.

    Doctors are qualified to provide that assessment. An employer (outside of a doctors office) is not.

    It is not reasonable for an employer to ask further information as they are unable to make the assessment of wetherman employee is capable of work.

    If your boss asks you how you are when you come back, I’d consider answering it, but to make it a policy is over reaching.

    • Thank you, that’s helpful

  • FWIW this is what the Fair Work Ombudsman says:

    Fair Work Ombudsman - Notice & medical certificates:

    …An award or registered agreement can specify when an employee has to give evidence to their employer and what type of evidence they have to give. The type of evidence requested must always be reasonable in the circumstances.

    Types of evidence needed for sick / carer’s leave

    Medical certificates or statutory declarations are examples of acceptable forms of evidence. While there are no strict rules on what type of evidence needs to be given, the evidence has to convince a reasonable person that the employee was genuinely entitled to the sick or carer’s leave.

    • Thanks for that. Yeah the issue here is that the medical certificate was supplied, but contained the generic “this person is deemed unfit for work for bla bla date”. Although the “evidence” was supplied, which the above states is “sufficient”, it didnt go into detail about the sickness, which i guess can be interpreted as reasonable grounds for the employer to ask for further details? It’s a bit of a gray area i guess, but it doesn’t feel that we have to reveal the exact nature of our sickness to the employer after its verified by the doctor…

      • +1

        That's actually super generic especially if it can be assumed that the doctor doesn't actually know what the person's job entails.

      • LOL, there is absolutely no 'grey area'. The irrefutable evidence is the QUALIFIED doctor's statement/assertion that the person was deemed unfit for work, and as you have alluded to it IS an absolute breach of privacy for the employer to 'require' further details pertaining to the medical condition/s in question. Anything even verging on an implication that the employee is required to divulge such information to them is simply illegal, and could land that employer in a lot of hot water, should it be proven. The employer can of course ask about details by way of making polite conversation, but that is all. They certainly cannot insist on anything in this regard. If this really is happening, this is a bold employer indeed, acting in this way in this day and age.

        Of course certain exceptions apply such as pilots whose eyesight suddenly fails, surgeons who develop debilitation tremors etc.; but that is quite clearly not what you are alluding to here.

  • +2

    Ask your union, they will know.

    • Ah yes good idea, thanks!

    • +1

      Not all industries have one. FWO is a better source!

  • +2

    Just describe what your barf and/or toilet looked like (or use imagination) , surely they'll be begging you to stop.

    • +3

      bring in a sample
      .

  • +3

    chuck some beef stroganoff and gravy in the dunny and take some photos, they will soon beg you to stop

    • don't waste strog like that

  • +3

    Medical certificate is legally sufficient. No more needs to be provided. Your GF should ask the manager why more is required so she knows where this is heading

  • +1

    Not always. The employer can require a diagnosis or other information in certain circumstances:
    Australian and International Pilots Association v Qantas Airways Ltd [2014] FCA 32

    • Interesting read, didn't know about that one

    • Yeah I read that one just then. It's a fine line between privacy and employer rights I guess.

  • +2

    depends, what did your GF sign in her EBA or similar?, we have to note on our medical certificate detail of illness. We do not need to get into much detail however. We can write, flu, stomach illness, migraine etc.

    • +1

      ^ This.

      If she is subject to an EBA she may be required to provide further details. This is generally due to the type/location of employment.

      • Ok thanks guys, sorry what's an EBA?

        • +1

          Methinks that would be an 'enterprise bargaining agreement'…

  • +2

    If shes in food handling and has a stomach bug an employer can ask because it puts their customers at risk

    • I think a bit of clarification is in order here qerts. Did you perhaps mean:

      'If she is in food handling the employer can ask whether she has a stomach bug, because if she does it puts their customers at risk' ?

      The way you have worded it technically means that anyone employed in any food-handling role is obliged to divulge the details of any medical condition they have that causes them to miss a day of work. That is not the case. For example, patients with HIV who work at Maccas and need to take a 'sicky' due to an illness (or medical procedure) associated with the condition are certainly not obliged to divulge their HIV-positive status to their employer.

  • +4

    Just say gastro, no one is asking any more questions about that.

  • Say mental health reasons from always being barraged with none ethical questions lol

  • +1

    Can the OP provide some context? What is reasonable in one occupational may not be in another. As noted above, if she was a pilot for example then there is a large duty of care regarding being of sound body and mind to return to work.

    Is there some substance as to why the employer is asking? If they are just being nosy, then 'I had violent diarrhoea' usually does the trick.

    • She's in childcare, not an office job unfortunately. So yes rostered work I guess.

      • Not that she may have to though a future certificate could indicate personal illness, no risk to self or others. If that's an option.

  • At my last job, we had a nosy Nellie there in the office that just had to know everyone's business. So we just bombarded her with "reasons". The more disgusting, the better and as graphic as you could be.

    But if the boss is being a tool, just get the Dr to write something on it next time. The boss cant override the certificate, all they can do is view what ever reason the Dr has given and accept it.

    But also, like others have said above, if it is something that can affect health and safety, ie: bum squirts and they are handling food, or vertigo and driving large machines, the boss has a right to know if you are fit to return to work or not.

    • Yeah fair enough - no just a new manager trying to make her mark I assume. Being a notch uptight to improve her KPIs I reckon. She works in childcare, just the odd sick day.

  • +1

    So weird, I've worked at 4 different employers in my life and none of them have ever requested that I bring in a sick certificate. Even once when I was hospitalized for a period of time they didn't even want one (I insisted they have it for their records though).

    Although I would say that some employees that were sick constantly were asked to provide certificates and the boss would question them all the time on their illnesses in a lame attempted to try and make them feel guilty (but if you are at the point of constantly taking time off work, the ship has sailed on them caring what the boss thinks.

  • +1

    Employers have a duty of care, so it is reasonable that an employer can make that request. Whether it's appropriate for a one off sick day when a person is obviously sick from something like a cold is a different matter. Your employment contract or internal policies should spell the circumstances when an employer can request more information. For example, if you have large amounts of leave, even if covered by a certificate, your employer might want to know why so they can make reasonable adaptions to the workplace to allow you to better cope at work. If you exacerbate an existing condition at work, they could be liable for it.

  • +1

    My guess would be the employer can request whatever they want. Doesn't mean you are obliged to provide though.

    Any specific reporting requirements would be outlined in relevant EBA, award, employment contract, etc. If it's not listed I would suggest no such requirement exists and you can either tell your boss you don't want to discuss it or you can tell your boss the reason.

    • Yo cheaps, re 'My guess would be the employer can request whatever they want'…

      You are wrong about that. They simply can not.

  • +2

    I'd ask the other employees she works with if THEY were also asked for additional info. If it's common practice- fine. If not, it's discriminatory. Whether she wants to then take it further is up to her. It sounds like she might want to consider other employment if she's being singled out. Good luck to her.

  • -1

    Unless it was a sickness for more than say a week or they are constantly unwell, I'd tell him to contact the doctor for more information. You can also speak to HR to get their opinion as that's their job and a lot of Managers do things they aren't meant to (I used to work in HR 7 years ago so I've seen it and continue to see it as an employee).

    • I'd tell him to contact the doctor for more information

      Doctor won't be able to disclose anything directly to anyone, besides the patient, due to confidentiality laws. Unless you sign a release form.

      And if you want that same doctor to write another certificate in future, I wouldn't want workplacw contacting dr and hassling them. The dr might say no next time you need certificate, instead of it being an easy thing to get.
      If you're always off sick for proper reasons, less of an issue. But if your off faking 'sickies' then could screw up a good thing by having employer call your doctor. I know when I wanted to wag school as a teenager, you could 1. Get parents note, or 2. Provide dr certificate. Was as easy as faking a cough, or saying you had a headache.

      Fake 'sickies' is a big thing it seems, so I'd say that's what OP's employer is trying to crack down on. It does cost them money (both in paying sick days, and in productivity).
      I like the incentive option some businesses take up. Instead trying to chase everyone up investigating the fake 'sickies' , some businesses pay the sick leave payout regardless of whether you have taken the amount of sick days or not. So if you have 10 sick days left for that year, they will give you a payout of that amount.
      This means they don't lose the productivity of emolyees calling in sick (when they aren't really sick). And also means they don't have to worry so much about chasing up the fake 'sickies' as staff don't have much reason to take sickies, if they get paid out for them regardless as an incentive.

      • Yeah both valid points. Fake sickies do cost a lot and I understand it from an employers perspective too. But it's not like it's a week off, just the odd unwell/sick day every few months. It's just a new annoying manager that's trying to make her mark I guess, and it's a bit of an art to tell her that there's legal documentation (med certificate) and that it's none of her business, all the while not causing additional drama.

        The legal aspect of it is a bit hazy, but the more I research, the more I realise that the law leans slightly towards employers on this one:

        http://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/sometimes-medic...
        https://legalvision.com.au/sick-leave-can-i-ask-an-employee-...

        But they typically relate to extreme cases. Not like one day sick kind of thing..

    • -1

      Re 'I'd tell him to contact the doctor for more information', that is, frankly, ridiculous. There is a little thing called doctor/patient confidentiality…

      • That's exactly my point, it's none of their business as to why you are sick but it seems people aren't smart enough to understand that.

  • +2

    I'm guessing she has a new manager who has decided this is a great idea to reduce their unplanned absences stats.

    There is a writeup at https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/talking-to-your-employer-abo... and I agree with the articles suggestion - talk to Fairwork, they will know what is required for her Award.

    My advice - if she isn't comfortable with the entire office knowing then don't volunteer any details. Even if it's common for other staff, unless it's required by your EBA I wouldn't. While it's private information and shouldn't be shared, it definitely will be. Think how many times you've heard 'XYZ won't be in today as they have a cold/migraine/period pain etc'.
    From personal experience - I was very sick for a week prior to some surgery last year, I foolishly passed on the name of the illness to my manager and came back to find the entire floor of the office knew and due to Dr Google were positive I was contagious (It wasn't a transmittable illness).

    • Thanks this was helpful. What's EBA by the way?

  • " What's EBA by the way?"

    Enterprise bargaining agreement.

    Working conditions and salary etc … all that sort of good stuff.

    This is an agreement set up usually [may vary] between your union and the employer.

    The union are there to help members..

    • Ah ok thank you!

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