Should employers be charged for workers’ medical certificates?

by Chloe Taylor09 Feb 2015
It was recently reported that Medicare author Professor John Deeble suggested GPs should charge organisations for their employees’ medical certificates.

Deeble said that the documents required by employers to certify their workers’ illnesses should be billed separately by Medicare, with the amount being regained through charges on businesses.

“It's got nothing to do with healthcare, so why not?” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “The person who requires the medical certificate is the employer. The [sick] person doesn't want it. It is a service to business, because otherwise it would have to set up its own clinics, or they'd have to just accept their employees’ word.”

Brian Morton, chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s council of general practice, said that the number of patients visiting their GP merely to obtain proof of their illness for their employer is “unnecessarily high”.

He suggested that employers should consider alternatives for managing absenteeism, criticising the lack of trust which ultimately leads to doctors prescribing antibiotics for minor illnesses when they are inappropriate.

However, business groups rejected the suggestion that employers should be held financially liable for medical certificates.

“Anything that adds to the costs and complexity of running a business is a backwards step that will make it more difficult for businesses to grow and create jobs,” said Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell.

Stephen Smith, national workplace relations director for the Australian Industry Group, told the Herald that Deeble’s proposal was “a ridiculous idea that would be met with very strong opposition from employers.”

Smith added that “with [sick leave] entitlements, the employer has the obligation to provide the entitlement but only if the employee satisfies his or her obligation to provide adequate proof that he or she is entitled to it,” saying that this “has always been the case”.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said that providing patients with medical certificates was an accepted aspect of practicing medicine, but added that she was “continuing to keep an open mind” in regards to Medicare reform consultations. She also said that Deeble was “welcome to put forward his ideas for consideration”.

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  • by Paul 9/02/2015 11:53:33 AM

    Experts who have never actually owned or ran a business. This idea is not new. It actually legislation in N.Z. This is where he has got this idea.

    How can Brian Morton blame the request for a medical certificate being the driver of G.P prescribing antibiotics for minor illnesses when they are inappropriate? I suggest these G.Ps may need some further training.

  • by Di 9/02/2015 2:11:49 PM

    Surely common sense should guide this issue.
    After consulting the FWO, our workplace policy requires evidence of illness by way of a Med Cert OR a Stat Dec.
    Many pharmacies now issue Med Certs. So why should an employee have to go to a GP?
    FWO say "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."
    Doesn't this therefore make the argument of who pays irrelevant?
    We find many employees still go to their GP as they are genuinely ill and need a consult for their own wellbeing, so the med cert is a by-product of a necessary consult.
    But with a policy like ours, those employees with occasional recurring health issues, like say migraines, don't need to burden the health system as we accept a stat dec from them, creating trust and simplifying the process.

  • by Bronwyn 9/02/2015 4:38:11 PM

    If employers are to be charged for the medical certificates issued to employees then they should be entitled a reason for the illness, not a broad 'medical condition', thus the employer receives some value from the cost of the certificate and some accountability from both the employee and the practitioner. The reason does not have to be a breach of privacy but gives the employer something to work with eg I have had an employee who took 13 Mondays off in a row with a medical condition that strangely only effected them on a Monday ...

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