By David Bates

Sometimes I feel like our HR Consultants here at Workforce Guardian should be re-named ‘Mythbusters’. They seem to spend so much time ‘busting’ commonly-held HR myths that this new title seems rather more fitting than ‘Senior HR Advisor’.

Take the ‘3 written warnings myth’ for example. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: an employee must be given three written warnings before they can be dismissed. Really? You’ll have a hard time finding that requirement anywhere in the Fair Work Act … because it isn’t there.

Another commonly-encountered myth is this one: a medical certificate can only be requested if the sick day falls either side of a weekend or a public holiday, or if the leave lasts two or more days. Um, no, these requirements aren’t imposed by the Fair Work Act either.

In fact, employers are entitled to ask an employee to produce evidence to support a sick leave absence every time it is taken, regardless of whether it’s a single day or at the start (or in the middle) of the week. 

The important thing to note, however, is that the employee isn’t required to provide supporting evidence unless and until it is requested by their employer. If no request is made, no evidence needs to be provided.

And here’s another sick leave-related myth: medical certificates are the only acceptable form of evidence an employee can provide. 

The Fair Work Act makes it clear that employees are entitled to provide any form of evidence which would ‘satisfy a reasonable person’. In the vast majority of cases, employees provide their employer with either a medical certificate or statutory declaration.

As you may already be aware, pharmacists are often willing and able to provide their customers with a ‘certificate’ confirming the person is unfit for work. Many employers aren’t exactly pleased by this development because it means employees don’t even need to go to the trouble of booking (and often paying) for an appointment to see their GP to justify their absence.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse.

Enter ‘Qoctor’ , Australia’s ‘quick, online doctor’. Yep, for just $19.99, your employees can book a ‘Skype’ appointment with a GP who’ll conduct a consultation online and then email through a medical certificate. No need to leave home! No need to practice that limp! And no need to even slide out of bed! (However you will, sadly, need to pause that episode of Game of Thrones that you’re streaming long enough to Skype with the doctor).

The real question is this: would a medical certificate issued by a GP who has never met your employee in person satisfy a ‘reasonable person’ that the sick leave was justified?

You be the judge.

Because sooner or later, one of these certificates is going to land in your inbox and this will no longer be a hypothetical situation. Instead, it will be your latest headache (but don’t worry, Qoctor can issue scripts for severe headaches too!).