Is a Medical Certificate enough?

Usually; but not always.   Sometimes, the employer can ask for better information, including a report from the treating medical practitioner.

Recently, the Federal Court dealt with a case where a pilot’s employer contended the medical certificate was uninformative and the employer wanted a full medical report from the doctor.  The employee was absent from work for a lengthy period on sick leave. The employee resisted, and his representative raised various things, including privacy.  The employer indicated that it may take disciplinary action.   The employee asserted that was adverse action was being taken against him.  The matter ended up in Court.

The employer said that in order to comply with occupational health and safety obligations the employer could not just accept the medical certificate in those particular circumstances.

The Work Health and Safety laws place a primary duty of care on the employer to ensure the health and safety of workers.   The same law requires workers to take reasonable care of their own health.

The Federal Court said the industrial awards must be construed in light of its industrial context, having regard to the problem at hand.  The Federal Court had previously decided that because of the strict obligations imposed on an employer by OHS legislation employers had to be able to find out more about an employee’s ability to undertake duties.

In this particular case, the Court found the employer’s requirements were sound when taking into account the operational side of the relationship, both for the employee and the employer.  The Court found the employee withheld co-operation without lawful justification.

In appropriate circumstances, where an employee is absent from work on personal leave with a medical condition that affects the ability to return to work, the employer can ask to learn more about the condition.