When Ontario Medical Association (OMA) president Scott Wooder told HR pros to stop asking for medical notes
because it was wasting time and spreading germs, HRM
readers had strong reactions.
Some applauded the suggestion, while many said some form of compromise such as a requirement after three days of sick leave was a good balance.
Now the TTC has had to defend its policy requiring workers get a doctor’s note after just one day of sickness.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross said before the rule was implemented workers could use five days leave before needing a medical note and the absence rate had hit 8.42% for unionized workers. In 2012, the first year the rule was enforced, that dropped to 7.7%.
According to StatsCan the national absenteeism rate in 2011 was 8.1%. However, comparing public and private sectors shows the wide differences, with the private sector workforce averaging 5.2%, the federal civil service reached 10.5% and provincial public organizations averaging 8%.
Union leaders said the policy makes it likely that workers are showing up sick and potentially spreading germs to colleagues and transit users.
“There is definitely a percentage of members that when they are feeling an ailment for a day will suck it up and come into work,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. “That is probably not good for the employees internally and probably not in the best interest of the public.”
The one-day rule is one of the strictest in the province, according to Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan.
Kinnear also suggested there could be safety issues if sick medicated operators are behind the wheel.
“It is important that they (the TTC) recognize the safety aspect and recognize that it is important that we ensure that we have completely alert operators out there,” he said. “You (should) want to make clear to the operators, to the people that are in safety-sensitive positions that if you are under the weather, if you are taking antihistamines, we don’t want you driving.”
“But the TTC … does not encourage that, in fact they very assertively encourage people to come in.”
Ross said it was incumbent on sick employees to stay home, despite the doctor’s note requirements.
“If you are sick, if you are unable to work, if you are fatigued in any way, if you are not fit for duty, you need to stay home,” Ross said.
As part of the collective agreement, the note rule can’t be changed until the contract expires at the end of March.