How Employers Should Handle The Medical Certificate For Work

There are strict rules and guidelines that are handed down when it comes to obtaining a medical certificate for work.

Employees have to do their due diligence to ensure that they are not in violation of their contract, because an oversight or instance of dishonesty can lead to serious ramifications.

Yet all of the onus to be diligent and forthright does not always sit with the employee.

Whilst the focus is often on their role and how they handle their absence from the workplace, employers have their role to play as well in this environment.

Here we will examine how employers should handle certificates and documents from medical professionals that cover for work absences.


Certificates Can Be Obtained In The Aftermath of An Absence

The first point that all employers should be wary of is that a medical certificate for work does not necessarily have to be handed into the office the moment that individual returns to work. The fundamental fact with this documentation is that it must stipulate the exact dates that were missed on the form, a form that can be crafted in the days following an absence. Some individuals who have suffered an injury or illness that forces them away from work might not have the document as a priority. That can also apply to the doctors who have to administer treatment and focus on preventative measures. In the time where the employee has settled back into their environment, that is when they can obtain the certificate.


Ensure The Doctor Is Certified

Unfortunately there have been case studies where employees have committed fraud when it comes to obtaining or handing in a medical certificate for work. For Australian workers, they must adhere to the Fair Work Act of 2009 that illustrates with clarity that any personal injury or illness that forces leave must be followed by evidence that would “satisfy a reasonable person.” In this respect, there have been isolated incidents where an employee has forged a certificate without the listed doctor being aware of the form being signed. From the perspective of the employer, they must be in contact with the doctor to clarify that they are legitimate and that the document is legitimate.

doctor checking pulse in the hand


You Can Request The Nature Of The Absence, But An Answer Does Not Need To Be Provided

Employers are entitled to ask the employee about the nature of the absence when a medical certificate for work is received. However, it is vital to note that the employee is under no obligation to answer those questions if they feel as they their privacy is more important in that moment. They are protected by law to ensure that their privacy is not violated. Furthermore, employers are free to continue to ask those questions and if absence from the workplace continues without a valid and transparent explanation from the certificate and the individual, then that could be grounds for dismissal. Each party has to issue a strong degree of transparency to ensure there is not a breakdown in the relationship.


Run a Checklist On All Fundamental Certificate Requirements

A standard medical certificate for work must be cross-examined and checked for its basic criteria. This will include:

  • Name of the patient
  • Name and address of the medical professional
  • Date the exam took place
  • Nature of the incapacity for work (if necessary)
  • The dates the employee will be absent for work
  • Name and address of the employer
  • Date and signature of document


Apply Standards as Per Workers Contract

Each and every private or public sector will have their own stipulation on employees who will obtain a medical certificate for work. Depending on whether they or full-time, part-time or casual hires, there will be different standards applied to their individual circumstances and their contract. The more benefits that are afforded to a category of worker (mostly full-time), the greater the degree of discrepancy is placed on this documentation. Shift workers in the hospitality industry for example are rarely required to obtain a certificate in this setting as they are on a rotating roster.


Not All Medical Procedures Require Documentation

There are certain practices of medicine where a medical certificate for work cannot be obtained. Unlike a general practitioner or a specialist who focuses on heart, brain and internal issues, there are others who rarely issue documentation to employers following treatment. These specialists include optometrists, therapists, physiotherapists, dentists and chiropractors.



The codes of medical practice will be there for department officials to check the parameters over obtaining and receiving a medical certificate for work. What is paramount for small businesses who do not have those resources is that they have a process where basic checks are run, and where an open and transparent dialogue occurs. So long as the employer and employee is happy to talk to one and other about a medical issue, then the technicalities can be managed without added stress or concern.