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Everything You Need to Know About Medical Certificate for Work

A primary concern for many people is getting sick; what happens if they begin to feel unwell and cannot go into work? Many workplaces are very strict on their policies and will not release sick pay unless there is proof of the employee’s illness. This means there is a need for a medical certificate for work. This paperwork from a doctor is something not many people know much about, so here are the basics about sick notes.


What is a medical certificate for work?

A medical certificate for work is a document from a doctor relating to the state of someone’s health. These documents are often known by the slang term ‘sick note’. It is often a requirement to get a sick note, if you take time off, in order to receive your sick pay.


What are doctor’s obligations?

Doctors have legal and professional responsibilities when it comes to giving out medical certificates for work. Any doctor signing a sick note must be honest and not misleading when signing these documents, furthermore, they are only legally allowed to sign documents they believe or reasonably believe to be accurate. Basically, the document needs to be based on facts known to the doctor, these facts are based off of what the patient has said, as well as the doctors own observations. Any statements made by the doctor in this paperwork need to have a factual basis. In simple terms, the doctor is not allowed, and will not lie for you- they are obligated to tell the truth.


Can a doctor refuse?

As a general practitioner is only allowed to issue a medical certificate for work if they believe the patient to be genuinely unwell, they can refuse. This may happen if the doctor does not believe the person is unwell, or if they do not think the absence from work is necessary given the nature of the illness. Furthermore, if the patient requests a note after their illness has passed and is asking for it to be backdated, and the general practitioner is not sure about the facts, they will also refuse to sign.


Can they be backdated?

In regards to backdating a medical certificate for work, it depends on how the doctor goes about this as to if they are legally allowed to do it or not. The term has two different meanings when it comes to signing a sick note, and are dealt with differently in the AMA guidelines. The first definition is not consistent with the guidelines, meaning the doctor should not backdate. This refers to when a doctor dates the paperwork on a day prior to seeing the employee. This is not allowed because there is no actual proof that the patient was unwell or not. The second meaning, however, is allowed according to the set guidelines. This is when a general practitioner sees a patient on a certain date, but after reviewing their condition is prepared to certify that they were not fit for work before the examination. So, in simple terms, doctors can sometimes backdate these documents, but it depends on the situation and your illness.



What should be included?

For a sick note to be valid, it needs to include certain information. The details on the document are as follows:

  • The name and address of the doctor issuing the paperwork
  • The name of the patient
  • The date the examination took place
  • The extent of the patient’s illness
  • The date the doctor believes the patient will be well enough to return to work
  • The date the note was written and signed