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Insufficient information on medical certificates

Tue May 22nd 2018

Have you ever looked at a medical certificate and thought “that really isn’t giving me the information I need”? Did you know you are able to ask for more information from the doctor who has written the certificate?

While there are some restrictions around what information the doctor will give you, it is possible to get a better idea of what duties or tasks the staff member is unfit to do, and when you can expect them to be fully fit for their normal work.

According to the Medical Council of New Zealand “medical certificates should provide the necessary information required by the receiving agency and consented to by the patient. The ‘necessary information’ should usually be limited to information about the doctor’s clinical opinion on safe activities, restrictions whether temporary or permanent, and timeframes. The certificate should not include private or irrelevant information.”

This means is that you can ask your staff member for their permission to get further information from the doctor and this information can include their fitness for work against a list of duties, as well as the expected date of return to work and what duties they will be fit (or unfit) for at that time. Providing the medical professional with a position description or list of duties will make the certificate more meaningful and helpful as you will get a better idea of what parts of the role they are unable to carry out and for how long.

The medical professional does not have to provide a diagnosis, unless it is specifically relevant to your workplace e.g. a chef diagnosed with a transferable illness or someone diagnosed with an infectious disease that may have affected co-workers, or if it is a workplace injury where you will need to know in order to prevent reoccurrence.

The employee does need to give consent to the doctor to release information but if you have the relevant clauses included in your Employment Agreement then you should be able to request further information, or request that the employee attends a doctor of your choice at your cost, for a second opinion. If you would like us to review your Employment Agreements to ensure you are covered, or have any other questions about medical certificates, then please get in touch.

I have known Thelma French for around 20 years, mainly as a business colleague working in the media industry. Thelma has worked in a number of organisations in the time I have known her and is someone who has truly evolved and developed as she has risen to meet the challenges. Thelma is someone who is very highly principled and who has at the core of her character an unwavering commitment to integrity and equity. She is unique in that she balances those elements of her character with innate warmth and an enormous sense of fun. She is someone who can be relied upon in any situation and provides strength and support to those around her.
CEO, Corporate, Auckland
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