Lighter Side: Employee’s sick note goes viral

Lighter Side: Employee’s sick note goes viral

Lighter Side:  Employee’s sick note goes viral One over-diligent employer has been reprimanded by a doctor who says making employees get sick-notes for a simple cold is both a waste of time and money.

“Please reconsider your policy on this,” begs the frustrated MD, “there are surely better ways of wasting your tax dollars.”

The note, which has been viewed 4.4 million times, was posted to social media site Reddit on Tuesday. Eaglel66, the user who originally shared the image, said the note had been written for a friend who works in Alberta.

The note says the patient "sensibly stayed home from work," rather than spread his cold to his colleagues and customers. 

"I have no test for the common cold and therefore believe him, however, you feel his time and mine should be wasted by making him sit in the walk-in clinic for hours and me spending time writing a sick note that I could be spending on people who genuinely need my attention," the note reads. 

This isn't the first time a Canadian doctor has criticized employers who require sick notes for short-term illnesses.

Last year, Nova Scotia physician Ethel Cooper-Rosen began including a $30 invoice to employers along with sick notes.

Both the Ontario Medical Association and Doctors Nova Scotia backed Cooper-Rosens initiative and urged employers to stop asking employees for sick notes.

The head of the OMA, Dr. Scott Wooder, said the policy could have a "discouraging effect" on workers who are ill and should stay at home. 

What do you think? Should employers be berated for requiring sick notes? Share your thoughts below.

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  • Joanne 2015-04-10 10:10:43 AM
    I think this subject has been debated to death. Most employers request medical notes after 3 days absence unless there is an attendance problem. Few and far between ask for a medical note each and every time an employee is absent.
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  • Bruce 2015-04-10 10:30:13 AM
    The pendulum always "overswings". Policies cannot and should not replace common sense and are often used as a security blanket by employers/managers.

    If there are absenteeism or leave issues with an employee then as a good employer/manager, deal with it! That's why you're paid the big bucks. That is management 101!

    A successful, productive and engaged workforce is one where trust exists and employees respect the employer and the rules when applied with common sense. I concur with the doctor and say that any sick leave problems are actually signs of a greater issue.
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  • Tanya Sieliakus, CHRP 2015-04-10 11:44:47 AM
    Doctors' Nova Scotia asked me to write on this very topic (for the Feb/Mar 2015 publication), but from the employers' perspective:

    The Polarizing Practice of Doctors' Notes

    The issue of employers’ demanding sick notes - and sometimes after missing only a single day of work – is hotly debated and highly polarized. On the one hand, doctors comment that the practice is stressing an already overstressed system. On the other, employers say they need doctors to verify the reasons their employees give for their absences. This HR practitioner is not certain that either side are singly right.

    Employers are not doctors. After an employee has been out of the workplace because of a serious illness or injury a doctor’s note is required to determine if the employee is “fit” to return to work and/or to substantiate a physical or other accommodation. Unfortunately, employees sometimes do not understand or agree to the restrictions placed on them and a doctor’s written opinion is a necessary means to ensure that the employee will be safe on the job.

    Too often, unfortunately, a note is not a matter of health and safety rather employers request notes as means to drive behaviour; that is, to address the offending behaviour of employees who are chronically and without legitimate cause absent from the workplace. The practice of asking for notes in this instance must stop.

    When an employee has an “observable” illness or injury asking for a doctor’s note is akin to telling the employee you suspect they are lying. Employers need to place more trust in their employees and stop the unnecessary practice of asking for a doctor’s note to substantiate what should be clear to any reasonable person.

    Then there is the practice of employers asking for doctors’ notes to substantiate absences for “discretionary” (or invisible) illnesses or injuries. This HR practitioner believes that notes will always be required but if employers had a better-considered attendance management system the practice could be significantly curtailed.

    Attendance programs should manage absenteeism and minimize absences by approaching attendance in a concerned and positive manner, as a matter of operational excellence. Most attendance programs have progressive thresholds of discipline. I suggest that employers stop requesting doctor’s notes for discretionary illnesses or injuries until the employee reaches the point of possible termination. Further, employers should be trending attendance patterns. Instead of insisting “Bob” provide a doctor’s note because he has had 5 occurrences of absenteeism so far this year instead look at Bob’s attendance in comparison to his immediate peers and only if Bob’s attendance record is egregious compared to his peers should his employer ask for a note.

    Concomitantly, doctors need to understand that employers simply cannot take all employees at their word, especially when an employee’s attendance situation has become egregious. Doctors must remember that employers are held to obligations under the Human Rights Act, and that to avoid terminating an employee with chronic attendance issues who might have a disability, thereby creating significant human rights and legal issues, the employer must show due diligence and have the employee provide medical substantiation for their absences.

    Finally, doctors must hold their patients accountable. Too many doctors have the reputation of writing whatever note the patient wants; this practice must stop, just as employers’ practice of asking for unnecessary notes must stop.

    Tanya Sieliakus is co-owner of HR pros Inc., a niche HR and safety consulting firm serving the Maritimes. Tanya has her national CHRP designation and is a certified diversity trainer and safety auditor. Tanya sits, and has sat, on a wide array of boards including: Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, TEAM Works Cooperative, the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia, the East Coast Music Association, Canadian Association of Family Enterprise, the Epilepsy Association of NS, and the Royal United Services Institute. Tanya can be reached at
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