Answer important questions about the work medical certificate


A work medical certificate is a valuable and essential document that specifies why a person was absent for their job.

By stipulating the details that explain why a professional could not be present, he is covered for sick leave if this is granted to him through a full-time contract.

Yet there are certain rules and principles that not all parties understand in 2018, leading to confusion and angst in some circles where shortcuts and missteps occur.

In order to ensure transparency from the employer to the employee, we will look at a series of key questions about the medical certificate.

Can employers request medical details?

Yes. It is correct to say that an employer may be able to request details of a work medical certificate if that information is not in a form or if the details are vague and ambiguous. However, Australian workers are protected in terms of confidentiality and have the right not to mention this information on the form if they feel this is the best solution.

This does not prevent them from being asked follow-up questions, which puts unwanted pressure on the employee if they are not transparent in this case. It will only be a natural turn of events for questions to be asked about the nature of the absence, even if the form is issued by a certified healthcare professional.

What should be included on the certificate?

There are a number of basic elements that must be listed on a medical certificate in order to work. While no two forms are the same and there will be unique templates and paper documents involved, here is what should be listed in black and white:

  • Name of health professional
  • Address of their practice
  • Exam date
  • Planned / documented absence from work
  • Patient’s name
  • Possible details of the illness / injury that explains the absence (not mandatory)
  • Date and signature of doctor

Do casual workers need a certificate?

In the majority of cases, it is not necessary to obtain a medical certificate for the work of a casual employee. Often shiftworkers must position themselves to be available for these niches, and the absence will simply allow another person to take that time. Casuals can take unpaid sick leave, but their rate of pay is usually responsible for fitting in and compensating for any absence. In short, the answer is usually no, but there may be rare exceptions.

Do all medical appointments need to be documented?

The short answer to this question is no. A work medical certificate does not have to be issued following a chiropractic visit, a dental consultation or an appointment with an optometrist, for example. The leave policy in this case is that a document must be handed over if they have a medical condition that has forced them to be absent, or if it positions them to care for or support a loved one. An employer can request a certificate for even a few hours of absence in a day, but there are medical appointments that do not require the issuance of a form.

Should a certificate be surrendered immediately?

A work medical certificate does not have to be delivered to the office or the work environment on the first day of return. However, the longer an employee delays the return of a form that documents their absence, the more likely they are to miss sick leave and the more likely they are to be asked serious follow-up questions.

What must happen is that any form specifies the dates of the leave, and it can be issued in the days following a return. In an ideal world, a professional would return to their workplace with this piece of paper in hand ready to be filed for HR and invoicing departments respectively.

It is only in extreme circumstances that an employer can find legal grounds to terminate an employee. The medical certificate of work would not cover an absence having lasted more than 3 months out of a period of work of 12 months in most cases, because this degree of incapacity would make their position practically untenable without valid reason.

What is evident with this question are the circumstances surrounding an illness or injury and whether or not the organization has the will and patience to continue with a contract. Essentially, the short answer to this question is yes, but only after a long period of leave where there is minimal reason to continue the relationship.


If you believe that there are extenuating circumstances where your specific question or request regarding a medical certificate for work has not been addressed, it would be advisable to follow the Code of Conduct of the Medical Board of Australia. It is an organization that helps formulate important guidelines focused on confidentiality and essential codes of conduct for all parties.

These issues can always be managed assuming that there is a healthy and open dialogue between employee and employer. It is when these relationships break that problems arise and differences arise.

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