Last week, Ontario Medical Association (OMA) president Scott Wooder said HR pros should stop asking for medical notes
because it was wasting time and spreading germs.
From the TTC, which demands a note for just one day’s absence, to companies like IBM Canada, which only ask for a note after 10 days leave, the policies vary widely. However, HRM
readers were quick to note that some doctors were contributing to the problem by issuing medical notes regardless of the circumstances.
“In my last company I had a folder for 3 doctors who issued medical notes like candy to everyone and anyone,” reader Joanna commented. “Now the doctors are crying wolf. I'm sorry but I have had to put up with difficult times because it was easier for the doctor just to give the notes. These doctors had them pre-printed and all the receptionist had to do was fill in the patients name and date and collect the fee. What goes around comes around.”
Reader John Fleck suggested that HR needed to focus on problem employees who abuse the system instead of inconveniencing the majority who follow the rules.
Most readers agreed that a policy requiring a note for one day’s absence was extreme, but said in their experience most HR professionals used their discretion and only enforced the policy under suspicious circumstances.
“It should be noted that many employers only require doctor's notes for very short absences where there is a history of excessive absenteeism unsupported by medical evidence,” Nancy Fisher said. “Absenteeism is a societal problem and hence the OMA should work with employers to deal with it. While Scott Wooder does admit that he has no HR expertise, I'd be curious to find out what he thinks that employers and the OMA should do rather than just scolding employers for what we're doing.”
Most suggested there was some middle ground available, such as offering a set number of personal days, which the employee could take at any time for any reason, including illness, child care or a “mental health
day”. After those days are exhausted, longer term leave falls under benefit policy and any short term leave is unpaid.
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Members of the HR industry are adding their voices to a debate around medical notes, with some criticizing doctors for contributing to absenteeism issues.