Doctor’s certificate… can I get a second opinion?
From time to time I find myself discussing issues related to the amount of information (or more accurately, the lack of information) recorded on an employee’s doctor’s certificate, and whether or not my client can ask the relevant employee to attend a doctor of my client’s choosing – two recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) cases have shed some light on this issue:
In both cases the FWC confirmed that where an employee has been absent for a lengthy period of time (and where any medical certificates provided by the employee have only stated very generic medical information) - it is reasonable for the employer to require the employee to be medically assessed and for the assessment to be carried out by a doctor of the employer’s choice (that is, a doctor who has specific knowledge of the employer’s operations).
Those cases also make it clear that in such circumstances an employee refuses to attend the medical assessment, the failure to attend forms a basis for legitimate disciplinary action.
Note: as an employer you need to make sure you explain to the employee why you are requesting they undertake the medical, for example, to ensure they are fit to perform the inherent requirements of the position.
See the following decisions for more information:
Australian and International Pilots Association v Qantas Airways Ltd  FCA 32 and Mr Darrin Grant v BHP Coal Pty Ltd  FWC 1712.
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