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

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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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  • marilyn graves on 2016-01-08 11:39:11 AM

    I have a doctors note stating how many days and hours per week iam able to work can my company go against that.

  • Nettoya Williams on 2016-05-09 12:13:39 PM

    here you go!

  • Emily on 2016-06-30 8:49:44 AM

    What about if you hurt yourself at work and leave after doing a report, but are required every time to get a note to work the next day. Even one day missed from being ill you need a doctors note.

  • Bette on 2016-08-09 8:40:50 AM

    In Ontario, are there specific or expected wording required in a doctor's sick note or letter? Ex. date examined or therapy commenced and when a re-assessment will be performed?

  • Stephanie on 2016-09-06 5:04:27 PM

    What if an employee brings in a note...saying certain limitations but it just so happens it's during the week of your town fair......which makes you suspicious......and ds the employer can we call the doctor who issued these limitations on said note to confirm its the truth and he's not lying to get out of work to attend the festivities?

  • FC on 2016-09-10 2:04:28 PM

    @Stephanie
    You are allowed to confirm by contacting the doctor.
    But if it was only a day or two and it's not an habitual thing for that employee, I wouldn't bother....unless you've been looking for a reason to fire them...

  • Curiousnelly on 2016-09-29 7:49:07 PM

    Does this work the same during an employee's probation in Nova Scotia?

  • OnSecondThought on 2016-10-22 3:16:38 PM

    If the doctor has signed the note and you follow-up to confirm, then I think limit the questions to confirming the nature of the inability to work. To challenge the doctor's note otherwise could be construed as implying your belief that the doctor is lying. Most doctors are not going to lie about a patient's illness. But, they might not understand fully the type of work the employee does, or the kinds of accommodation that are possible. To me, being contagious is an important factor. Employees might be able to work (full of aspirin, decongestants, Pepto-Bismol etc.) but "do you want them in the office?" is another HR consideration. Our company has flu pandemic crisis management plans and it includes "do not come to work if you are sick".

  • Lilly on 2016-10-24 5:10:27 PM

    To: Emily
    "What about if you hurt yourself at work and leave after doing a report, but are required every time to get a note to work the next day."

    If the employee is injured at work, the employer will request Form 8 and FAF on subsequent MD assessments; it's a totally different type of documentation and just a doctor's note would not satisfy the employer, as the employer needs the info on employee's physical capabilities for the early and safe return to work process.

  • Ashly on 2016-11-08 3:37:31 PM

    Is it legal for my boss to ask me for a note saying I will never have another seizure at work before I am allowed to return to work?

  • Akata Marseu on 2016-11-14 9:47:57 AM

    Is it possible that any organization / company can have their own rules or regulations regarding a doctor's note even for just one sick day absent from work?......without a written documented policy proving to the employees of such requirements?

  • Sylvie on 2016-11-19 7:15:40 PM

    I work as a residential support worker. I
    have a doctor's note stating that a can do my 12 hr scheduled shift and unable to exceed that due to medical reasons.
    Now my employer is asking me to bring a questionnaire back to the doctor to get him to answer. I feel like most of the questions are personal. I Also feel bullied.
    What are my options if any.
    TIA
    From Ontario Canada.

  • Shawn on 2016-11-26 12:06:39 AM

    Sylvie, if your established hours of work when you started was 12 hours then your employer cant exceed that without a written agreement between you two. If you have that agreement then your employer can ask for a bit more info to establish why the agreed contract will be broken, however there are questions they still cannot ask.

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