Personal leave: is certificate from pharmacist acceptable?

Personal leave: is certificate from pharmacist acceptable?
By Paul Munro on 26 July 2017 Can an employee provide a certificate from a pharmacist as evidence of illness? 

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.
Q An employee was absent from work on paid personal leave due to illness (influenza) for two days. When the employee was requested by his immediate manager for evidence of illness the employee produced a certificate that had been issued by a pharmacist. It was our understanding that a medical certificate is required as satisfactory proof that an employee was ill.

Should we accept the certificate as proof of the employee’s illness or can we insist on him producing a medical certificate from a medical practitioner?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (s107(3)) provides that the employee must, when requested by an employer, give the employer evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that leave has been taken for the appropriate reason. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Fair Work Bill 2009 (para 415) states the types of evidence commonly requested are a medical certificate or statutory declaration.

It may not be reasonable on every occasion of personal illness for an employer to require an employee to produce a medical certificate. An absence of two working days would, it would seem, be considered a short period. Consequently, evidence other than a medical certificate may be reasonable in the circumstances. It may also be appropriate for a single day absence.

This means a certificate issued by a pharmacist may be reasonable in these circumstances.

However, in the case of an absence extending beyond a short period or repeated absences on particular days, for example before or after a weekend or public holiday, it may be reasonable for an employer to request a medical certificate.

The company leave policy should include a reference to other health practitioners in its personal leave policy to avoid any ambiguity or uncertainty on this point. A policy which only accepts a medical certificate as satisfactory evidence of an employee’s illness or injury may not be reasonable in every circumstance.

Guidelines for pharmacists

According to the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, a pharmacist can provide a certificate as evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of an employee’s illness or injury.

However, the Guild strongly recommends that pharmacists limit the provision of certificates for absence from work to their area of practice and expertise, which is primarily:
  • the supply, compounding or dispensing of medicines
  • the provision of professional pharmacy services, including advice on minor conditions and the effective and safe use of medicines, and
  • to circumstances where they can reasonably form a view as to an employee’s fitness for work, or as to the illness or injury of the member of the household or the immediate family.
The Guild has issued a reference guide “Issuing certificates for absence from work involving minor conditions in pharmacy”.

Other health practitioners

Sometimes employees may produce a certificate from a ‘registered health practitioner’ other than a medical practitioner or a pharmacist. Is this evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of an employee’s illness or injury?

This may depend on the registration or licensing law of the relevant state or territory for that professional group. For example, it may be difficult for an employer to refuse to recognise a certificate issued by (say) a registered chiropractor, osteopath, physiotherapist or psychologist, although the health practitioner’s certificate would need to be relevant to the illness or injury which prevented an employee from attending work.

Bottom line: While a medical certificate is considered reasonable proof of an employee’s illness or injury which prevented attendance at work, a certificate from a registered health practitioner may also be considered reasonable in relevant circumstances.
Need more help with WHS/OHS management?

Australian Business Consulting and Solutions has a dedicated team of WHS/OHS experts who can assist you with your specific WHS/OHS issues and problems. If you would like a free and obligation-free initial assessment of what you require in terms of professional assistance, you can obtain more information from our website.


No comments yet. Be the first.