Don’t rely on a sick note from your pharmacist, experts warn.
Pharmacies advertise Absence From Work certificates for $5 to $25, as an alternative to getting a medical certificate from a GP.
However, employment lawyer Christiaan van Oeveren warns your employer may not accept them.
“The Fair Work Act says evidence for sick leave needs to satisfy a reasonable person,” he said.
“But depending on your award, a pharmacy certificate might not be enough to satisfy your boss that you had a legitimate illness.”
Guidelines say pharmacists can issue certificates
Pharmacy Guild of Australia guidelines state that pharmacists can write Absence From Work Certificates for sick workers.
They can also issue the certificates for people caring for a sick family member.
The pharmacist is supposed to spend ten minutes with the patient, but is not required to stipulate the illness the person is suffering from, however.
It is recommended that the pharmacist not validate more than two days absence from work.
The guidelines further state:
“Pharmacists will need to carefully consider whether or not the illness or injury that is the subject of the certificate is within their recognised area of practice.”
Pharmacists are prohibited from issuing Return to Work Certificates.
Chemist Warehouse issues the certificates for $20, compared with a doctor’s consultation which can be as much as $80.
Don’t rely on a sick note from your pharmacist
However, Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, warned workers against pharmacy-issued sick notes.
“Pharmacists are not doctors and the Fair Work Act makes no reference to them being appropriately qualified to issue medical certificates for the purposes of personal or carer’s leave entitlements,” he said.
Online consultations such as “Qoctor” offer appointments via video conferencing.
They too can issue medical certificates, usually sent by email for $20.
Willox, described the service as “concerning”.
“For obvious reasons, in most cases a doctor will be unable to conclude that a person is genuinely sick without having any physical contact with the person,” he said.
Willox makes this extraordinary assertion without having any medical qualifications, or experience consulting with sick people.
Check with your employer
Mr van Oeveren advises workers to check with their employer if a note from a pharmacist meets the threshold of proof of illness.
“If you are genuinely sick and need time off work, go and see your doctor,” he said.
“It’s risky spending 20 bucks for a piece of paper that could turn out to be useless.”
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