Industrial Relations Claims is warning workers who rely on medical certificates issued by pharmacists to be cautious.
Major chemist chains are now advertising the “absence from work” forms charging anywhere from $5 to $25, as an alternative to getting a medical certificate from a GP, but Christiaan van Oeveren from Industrial Relations Claims warned your employer may not accept them.
“The Fair Work Act say evidence for sick leave needs to be able to satisfy a reasonable person, but depending on the award you work under, or the conditions of your employment, one of these pharmacy certificates might not be good enough to satisfy your boss that you had a legitimate illness,” he said.
“More and more employers are now questioning the legitimacy of these chemist-issued medical certificates.”
Guidelines say pharmacists can issue sick certificates
The current guidelines dictate that pharmacists can write the absence from work forms for people who are not fit to work due to illness or injury, or for people caring for a sick family member.
The pharmacist is supposed to spend ten minutes with the patient, and even though they don’t have to make mention of the ailment the person is suffering from, it is recommended that they not validate more than two days absence from work.
“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,” the guidelines state.
This suggests while a sick note for the flu might be fine, anything more serious should be referred to a GP.
Pharmacists are also not allowed to issue return to work certificates.
Chemist Warehouse is one outlet offering the service, currently advertising the forms for $20, compared with a doctor’s consultation fee which can be as much as $80.
“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,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group said.
In addition to pharmacies, an online service called “Qoctor” offers medical consultations via video conferencing and if necessary, will send a medical certificate by email for a cost of $20.
Mr Willox said such services were 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.
“Employees would be wise to not use such services.”
While the service might help reduce the clogging up of doctor’s surgeries with people suffering minor ailments, critics believe the pharmacy sick notes could be abused by workers, and by chemists who see them as a way to make a quick buck.
Mr van Oeveren said employees are taking a risk by relying on such certificates.
“If your workplace agreement or award stipulates a higher threshold than a note that you got online or from your local chemist, then you might not have a leg to stand on if your employer wants to take action against you,” he said.
“While there are not many cases where this has been put to the test, the best thing to do if you are genuinely sick and require time off work, is to go and see your doctor.
“It’s risky spending 20 bucks for a piece of paper that could turn out to be essentially useless.”
The current guidelines around the pharmacy absence from work notes are now under review, and are due to be updated later in the year.
If you have been unfairly dismissed from employment for taking a sick day, we can help.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on
1300 045 466