Requesting a doctor's note: be careful what you ask for

Requesting a doctor's note: be careful what you ask for

Requesting a doctor

Getting enough information, but not too much information, is key with medical notes to ensure you have all the information your organization needs, without crossing employee privacy lines. Are your policies up to the job?

Sick leave legislation differs from province to province; Quebec, Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan all require employers to provide unpaid sick leave, which may need to be supported by a doctor’s note.

In Ontario, legislation requires organizations with at least 50 employees to provide 10 days of unpaid personal emergency leave a year, which covers personal illness if the employee provides documentation.

In provinces where organizations are not legally required to allow unpaid sick leave, like British Columbia, it is left to the employer’s discretion. Some collective agreements include guidelines for sick leave and doctor’s notes. Some organizations have an informal practice, well known among employees, for requiring doctor’s notes after, say, three days of sick leave. Others will have a clear, documented policy in place that outlines how many days of leave are allowable before a doctor’s note is required.

Kathryn Bird, associate at Hicks Morley LLP recommends the latter.

“The first step for employers in terms of best practice is to have a written documented policy that employees are aware of with respect to medical notes. If you don’t have a policy in place you get into murky territory; the question of whethe employers can request a medical note becomes one of appropriateness," she said.

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