When can employers insist on a doctor's note?

HRD talks to Sherridan Cook, Partner at Buddle Findlay, about when HR can request a medical certificate

When can employers insist on a doctor's note?

An employer can require an employee to provide proof of sickness or injury for leave taken under the Holidays Act where the absence has been for three or more consecutive calendar days, according to Sherridan Cook, Partner at Buddle Findlay.

Cook told HRD that obtaining the proof of sickness (usually a medical certificate) would be at the employee’s cost.

“The employee would have to go usually to their GP and get a medical certificate and they would pay for that,” he said.

He added that it’s important to note that three or more consecutive calendar days also covers the weekend.

For example, take an employee who was away on Friday and then away again on Monday.

In that case, even though they were away for two working days, the employer could still ask them for a medical certificate and the employee would have to pay for it.

“If it is less than three consecutive calendar days then the employer can also require the medical certificate provided they tell the employee as soon as possible that proof is required and they agree to meet their costs,” said Cook.

“For example, if the employee was away for a day, the employer could say ‘I would like you to provide proof and I will pay for that’. So the employee would go to their GP and the employer would pay for that.”

Moreover, it’s important to consider situations where the employer provides the employee with sick leave entitlements that go beyond the Holidays Act, added Cook.

For example, the organisation might give them 10 days a year rather than five, as many employers do.

“In that case, for the leave that’s given in excess of the Holidays Act minimum requirements, the employer can have their own rules around when a medical certificate will be required. They could say in employment agreement or in their policy that any time you are away sick we want you to get a medical certificate and you will have to pay for it.”

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