Is It Legal For Your Work To Demand A Medical Assessment After You Call In Sick?

Considering 81 per cent of Australian full-time workers have admitted to taking a sick day when they're not ill, it's no wonder bosses are wary of employees who "chuck a sickie". But how far can they go to make you prove that you're really too sick to work? Is it legal for your employer to order you to get a medical assessment?

Medical examination image from Shutterstock

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 Section 96, all legally employed full-time workers in Australia are entitled to 10 days of sick and carer's leave every year. This is also known as personal/carer's leave. To take the leave, he or she must not be "fit for work because of a personal illness, or personal injury". They can also use the leave to take care of a family member or a member of their household who is sick.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, a worker must inform their employer that they're going to take sick leave as soon as possible and may be required to tender evidence as to why they're taking the time off. This includes medical certificates.

The Fair Work Ombudsman highlights that:

An employee who doesn't give their employer evidence when asked may not be entitled to be paid for their sick or carer's leave.   A workplace policy or registered agreement can specify when an employee has to give evidence to their employer and what type of evidence they have to give.

But what if a medical certificate isn't enough? There have been cases in the past where employers have demanded workers to undergo medical assessments with doctors of the company's choosing. Generally speaking, there is no set rule as to what evidence you give to your employer to prove you were sick unless clearly stipulated in a modern award or enterprise agreement.

Companies can also write into these award and enterprise agreements conditions as to when they can request an employee to undergo a medical assessment. This was confirmed in the Australian and International Pilots Association v Qantas Airways Ltd [2014] Federal Court case.

An employer does have the right to write provisions into a work contract that allow them to demand a medical assessment. That doesn't mean your bosses can write in ridiculous and unreasonable clauses such as making you take medical examinations after you take just one sick day and dismiss you if you don't comply. The provisions are subject to the Fair Work Act 2009 requirement that they are applied in a reasonable manner.

For example, if you take a sick day before or after a public holiday weekend, that could be considered suspicious and it would be reasonable for your employer to request a medical examination. Same thing applies to if you take an extend period of sick leave without specifying the reasons.

Many of us may have barely skimmed our employment contracts when we were first hired. It would be wise to go through the details of your work contract carefully to see if your company is entitled to order you to go through a medical examination under certain circumstances to justify your sick days.

Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


    It's illegal for an employer to demand that you see "their" doctor, they can only request that you do so. I'm not sure if it's all states but I believe that you can get a certificate from a pharmacist as well.

      You don't even need a med cert. Complete a stat dec declaring you were sick and any pharmacist or even the police can sign and certify it. Your employer cannot refuse a stat dec.

        On another link I found the following ( presumably from the USA):
        "A reader writes:

        I work in a very small office, and on one day per week, a coworker comes in to assist me. Yesterday I came in early, as did my coworker. After about two hours, she started vomiting into a wastebasket. I ram to the bathroom and got her some paper towels and gave her my own supply of wet wipes from my purse. She continued to throw up in the wastebasket (never once got up to go to the bathroom). I told her she should go home. She said she did not feel well enough to drive and called her daughter and then told me her daughter was coming to get her. She continued to vomit into the wastebasket and the office smelled terrible. She sat the wastebasket down on the floor right between us, and I told her she could not do that and that the smell was making me sick. After another hour or so, I asked her when her daughter was coming and she said her daughter was coming for her after her daughter got off work, in another 3-1/3 hours.

        We work in a hospital and I offered to walk her down to the ER. She said no, as they would charge her money. I finally could not take the odor and clocked out early. I had to be the one to leave and she stayed (getting her hours in).

        When I got home, I emailed my supervisor letting her know why I left early. I asked what the protocol was for this type of incident, since it would probably happen again with this coworker. I was told there was no standard in place for this type of thing. Can this be true? I would think having a coworker vomit repeatedly sitting right next to you would be considered a work place health hazard, or at the very least intolerable working conditions."

        I reckon you'd only have to do that once - they wouldn't push you for certs after that :-)

    On one hand, I fully agree with some employers that the "chucking a sickie" mentality is kind of stupid.

    On the other hand, sometimes I think employers need to understand that sometimes taking a day off to recuperate your mental health is also important. I knew someone who owns a company who referred to them as just "mental health days" and as long as its not regular or coinciding with cricket matches he's okay with it.

      I used to work in an office where 'Doona Days' were written in as part of the work contract. The idea is that there are days when you get up and just want to stay in bed and not go to work, so you can just use up one of your two Doona Days per year.

      In practice, it didn't work very well since management viewed it as inconsiderate if you took a Doona Day on a whim so people would plan out when they would use up those days. Kind of defeated the purpose, in my opinion.

      I agree. And when I have a bad cold or a migraine, I know what I need to do. I need a cool dark room, plenty of fluids, and rest. Getting up and going to the doctor is a waste of my time and theirs, just for a piece of paper.

        At most places I've worked at, they don't ask for a medical certificate unless you take 2 or more consecutive days, so taking one day off for a migraine is fine. Although some places have also asked for certificates if it's a Monday or a Friday, or immediately before or after a public holiday.

          Yeah, where I work they ask even for just one day, unfortunately!

    As a long time contractor, who gets my sick days in cash, I think it's a little unfair that you effectively pay for the sick days, but are then denied them.

    If you're like me, and never get sick enough to take a day off, then I think it's your right to chuck a sickie every now and then without really having to prove you were sick.

      Not sure about your sick days in cash / paying for them. But I agree with the 2nd part. If you don't take sick days, you should be allowed to take a day here and there without proof. Make the person that takes a day every 2nd week prove their sickness.

        As a contractor I don't get paid for sick days, but I earn more than a permanent employee as part of the bargain.

        So, while it's not actually sick days in cash, it's effectively the same.

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