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Getting a doctor’s note may be a tough pill to swallow

Getting sick is a fact of life. There are days when we just can’t bring ourselves to get out of bed, much less head to the office for a full workday. As kids, we all went back to school after being sick with a note from home letting the teacher know why we were away. Most times, that’s the way it is at work as well. When you’ve been off sick, your employer may ask you to provide a sick note from your doctor.

Missing a couple days might not matter too much, especially if your employer provides employees with a certain amount of sick days but an extended absence could mean that you will need to get proof from your doctor that you were ill and not lying on a sun-drenched beach.

What happens if you’re off for the long haul?

If you’ve injured yourself – like broke a bone or had a bad sprain – and your doctor prescribes rest, your boss may want to see a functional abilities form that says whether you would be able to do some amount of work or at least would give an indication as to how long you’re likely to be absent.

There are some things that might affect the doctor note dilemma:

  • Employer policies
  • Stipulations in any collective agreements
  • Terms of contracts

Basically, it’s up to your employer to determine any company sick leave policies and to make them known to you and your colleagues. The rules should make it clear what is expected from employees regarding missing work due to illness or injury – whether that is for a short or long-term – and when or if you will need to cough up a doctor’s note. Your employer may be more liberal with sick days unless you’re calling in sick on a regular basis.

They could become passé

Sick notes could become a thing of the past. Ontario recently passed legislation that would ban employers from asking for sick notes if an employee takes 10 or fewer days off in a year due to sickness. The law comes into effect in January 2018. The province hopes the move will translate into fewer wasted appointments with doctors. It’s a move that may help you feel less guilty for staying at home when you’re not feeling well and will keep you from spreading your germs to your co-workers.

Many employers have already gone on the modern job bandwagon and don’t ask for sick notes anyway but this reform will ensure all employers get on board. Your employer will still be able to ask you for a note if you miss (or will likely miss) more than 10 days of work. The move on the health ministry’s part has garnered favour from family physicians. The Ontario Medical Association has been pushing for the end to sick notes for quite some time.

The sick note issue is very much a trust-centred one. If you and your employer have a good relationship based on honesty, it is not likely this will become a problem. Although it still would be prudent to have a copy of your employer’s guidelines handy.