THE AUSTRALIAN Medical Association (AMA) has encouraged businesses to come forward with any concerns they may have about the authenticity of sick leave certificates they are receiving from non-medical sources.
As WorkChoices allows sick leave certificates to be issued by anyone who is a registered health practitioner in their respective State or Territory, the AMA has raised concerns about sick leave certificates being issued by suspect practitioners.
Media reports from Tasmania recently noted that chiropractors, optometrists and pharmacists have noticed a significant rise in requests for certificates, but did not believe patients were rorting the system.
“It has reached the ridiculous stage where employees could possibly get a separate sick leave certificate for a different body part for each day of the week,” said Mukesh Haikerwal, AMA president.
“The new legislation promotes sickness, not wellness, and I fear we are just seeing the beginning of a dangerous trend that will hit workplace productivity and the health of workers.”
Following the refusal of Kevin Andrews, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, to address the concerns of the AMA and business groups over the ‘Claytons’ sick leave certificates, the AMA is mounting a test case based on a medical certificate issued by a Chinese Medicine practitioner earlier this year.
The certificate in question identified the practitioner as a doctor, even though they are not registered medical practitioners, and the certificate was titled ‘medical certificate’ and stated the patient was receiving medical treatment.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has advised pharmacists not to issue sick leave certificates, after legal advice said they have no express power to issue medical certificates under professional pharmacy practice standards, and pharmacists who did issue sick leave certificates might not be protected by their professional indemnity insurance.
The AMA’s Haikerwal said the Government has opened up a sick leave free-for-all that will not benefit employers or employees.
“Employers will now be presented with sick leave certificates from everyone from osteopaths and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners to pharmacists, chiropractors and acupuncturists, depending on who is classified as a registered health practitioner under State and Territory legislation,” he said.
The only concession the Government has made to fix its “monumental legislative blunder” is to not allow veterinarians to issue sick leave certificates for people, he added.