In a response to a number of reports of employers attempting to attend medical appointments with employees, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has said it does not support or condone this behaviour.
According to FWO, there are few circumstances under which an employer should seek to attend a private and confidential appointment with an employee, and it would only be permissible to do so if specifically requested by the employee. “The laws around sick leave and personal leave are quite simple. While an employer may request evidence that would substantiate the reason for an employee’s entitlement to personal/carer leave, a medical certificate or statutory declaration is generally considered an acceptable form of evidence,” FWO said in a statement. “The Fair Work Ombudsman does not consider that it is reasonable for an employer to seek to attend a medical appointment with the employee for this purpose and views this as a breach of the employee’s privacy,” it continued.
In cases where the legitimacy of a medical certificate is in question, employers are urged to follow the established processes within the medical profession for dealing with practitioners who issue a fraudulent or unjustified certificate.
When considering a request for personal or carer’s leave, employers are entitled to request evidence that ‘would satisfy a reasonable person’ that the leave was taken because of an employee’s illness or injury. If an employee provides this evidence, the employer must grant the request.
Likewise, when considering such requests, it is important for employers to respect their employee’s privacy and to only obtain evidence that is relevant to substantiate the absence. The cause and nature of their absence is not necessary, except in unusual or exceptional circumstances.
The notice follows a matter looked at by Fair Work Australia earlier this year, when construction materials supplier Boral came under fire for its practice of supervisors accompanying injured employees into doctors’ consulting rooms – HR said it was in order to support the worker, but Fair Work found it was an invasion of privacy.
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