Province limits employers' right to ask for sick notes

Part of legislation looking to improve access to care – including waiving licensing or registration criteria for healthcare providers

Province limits employers' right to ask for sick notes

Nova Scotia is making it easier for workers to access healthcare services in their time of need.

The government has introduced legislation that will limit employers’ right to ask workers for sick notes during their absences for medical reasons.

Under the Patient Access to Care Act, employers will only be able to request a sick note if an employee is absent for more than five days or has already had two absences of five days or less in the previous 12-month period.

“Paperwork shouldn’t stand in the way of helping Nova Scotians get the care they need,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness. “When someone is sick, the last thing they should be thinking about is that they need to get a doctor’s note. It’s also the last thing a doctor needs to write, when they could be seeing a patient with more urgent care needs.”

Previously, HRD wrote about the things that employers should know before requesting a doctor’s note from employees.

Licensing, credentials

The Nova Scotia legislation also makes it easier for healthcare professionals from other parts of Canada to work in the province.

Under the proposed Patient Access to Care Act, healthcare providers coming from other parts of Canada will no longer be required to meet licensing or registration criteria, “as needed and in accordance with Canadian free trade obligations”.

Also, regulators will not be allowed to charge healthcare professionals licensed in other parts of Canada an application fee, and applications must be processed within five business days.

“If we continue to do things the same way, we are going to keep getting the same results,” said Premier Tim Houston. “That is unacceptable for Nova Scotia, and that is unacceptable to me. The legislation introduced today includes things that should have been done a long time ago that will help Nova Scotians get the care they need faster.”

The legislation also supports the creation of regulations that will apply the above provisions to non-Canadian jurisdictions; allows all regulators to recognize the credentials and licences of healthcare professionals trained outside Canada; and ensures regulated healthcare professionals can work to their full training and allows expanded scope of practice “through regulations rather than legislation”.

It also allows the government to prescribe Workers Compensation Board forms and documents to improve the process for Nova Scotians and doctors.

Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Manitoba have all made moves to attract healthcare workers to their province.

Expert opinion

Expanding doctors’ scope of practice is a good idea, said Dr. Gus Grant, CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, in a CBC report. However, it’s the experts that must decide on how far the expansion will be.

"I think it's absolutely essential that we maximize the training of our health workforce and maximize it through safely expanding their scope of practice so as to allow people to take full advantage of their training," he said.

"Having said that, it needs to be done with the voice of expertise in the room. And the expertise about nursing is nurses, the expertise about pharmacists is pharmacists, and medicine will be medicine."

Also, the idea of accepting credentials of doctors trained outside of Canada is “a slippery slope,” he said.

“It's investing in authority, in government that is not really related to government expertise or political expertise. It really needs the voice of medicine, medical educators, medical regulators to make those decisions."

Previously, Manitoba made changes to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba (CPSM) General Regulation. It stated that internationally educated physicians in specific membership classes will no longer be required to pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Exam Part 1 (MCCQE1) before registering and practising in Manitoba.

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