Many employers require that their employees provide a medical certificate if they’ve been on sick leave. This is commonly applied after two consecutive days of illness, although policies vary across organisations. Students often also require medical certificates for missed assignment deadlines or missed exams through illness.
YOUR DOCTOR’S OBLIGATIONS
A medical certificate isn’t a free “get out of work” card. You doctor won’t provide a medical certificate without fulfilling their own professional duty first. When issuing a medical certificate, doctors must be honest in their reasons for doing so and should not provide the certificate unless it is accurate. Doctors will usually base their assessment on the facts available to them, whether acquired directly from the patient or through their own observations.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE?
A correctly completed medical certificate will include a number of details that are relevant to your capacity to work or study. All medical certificates should include:
- Your name.
- Your doctor’s name and address.
- It should be addressed to whoever requires the certificate.
- The date you saw the doctor.
- The date the medical certificate was issued.
- The date your doctor believes you will be able to return to work.
- The certificate should provide some indication as to the severity of your illness.
CAN YOU GET A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE AFTER YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN SICK?
You absolutely can get a medical certificate if you have already been sick for a period. When you speak to your doctor, let them know when your illness began and the period for which you need a medical certificate. Your doctor will include on the medical certificate the period for which they believe you would have been unable to work.
DOES A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE NEED TO SAY WHY YOU WERE SICK?
A medical certificate does not need to specify why a patient was sick or unable to work. Patients have the right to confidentiality – any medical issues discussed with their doctor should only be shared as necessary. In some cases, it can be helpful to have your medical certificate outline exactly why you were ill. However, simply stating the severity of your illness and the fact that you are unable to work should suffice for most employers. Ultimately, it’s the employer’s right whether or not to accept or reject a medical certificate.
CAN YOU GET A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE FROM A PHARMACY?
Pharmacists are legally able to issue medical certificates, or absence from work certificates, although many may choose not to. These certificates can only be issued if the illness falls within the scope of a pharmacist’s assessment ability. In some cases they may refer you to a doctor. In addition, absence from work certificates cannot be backdated, so if this is your second day of being ill you may need to visit a doctor instead.
DOES A DOCTOR HAVE TO PROVIDE A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE?
Doctors are not obliged to provide medical certificates. They have the right to decline, usually if they believe that the illness in question doesn’t necessitate absence from work. Many doctors will decline to backdate a medical certificate if they aren’t confident about any of the facts stated by the patient or their observations don’t warrant one.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MEDICAL CERTIFICATE AND AN ABSENCE FROM WORK CERTIFICATE?
Absence form work certificates are usually used for short periods of sick leave, usually less than a week. They can be issued by both doctors and pharmacists. Whether you’re visiting a doctor or pharmacist, you will usually need to book a consultation ahead of time.