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Do you have to accept a medical certificate from a pharmacist?

Can an employee provide a certificate from a pharmacist, as evidence of illness?
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Do you have to accept a medical certificate from a pharmacist?

Do you have to accept a medical certificate from a pharmacist?

25 May 2021

Occasionally employees will provide a certificate from the pharmacist as evidence of illness. Often company policy asks for a medical certificate as satisfactory proof that an employee was ill. Should an employer accept the certificate as proof of the employee’s illness or insist on a medical certificate from a doctor?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (s107(3)) provides that the employee must, when requested by the employer, give the employer evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person that leave has been taken for the appropriate reason.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Fair Work Bill 2009 (para 415) stated that ‘it may not be reasonable on every occasion of personal illness for an employer to require an employee to produce a medical certificate.

However, in the case of an absence extending beyond a short period or repeated absences on particular days, for example before or after a weekend or public holiday, it may be reasonable for the employer to request the production of a medical certificate.’

An absence of two working days may be considered a short period. Evidence other than a medical certificate may be reasonable in those circumstances.

It is the view of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia that the Fair Work Act allows for pharmacists to issue certificates as proof of legitimate absence from work, although it recommends that pharmacists limit the provision of certificates for absence from work to their area of practice and expertise, which is primarily:

  • the supply, compounding or dispensing of medicines
  • the provision of professional pharmacy services, including advice on minor conditions and the effective and safe use of medicines
  • related to circumstances where they can clearly form a view as to an employee’s fitness for work, or as to the illness or injury of the member of the household or immediate family.

The Guild has issued Guidelines for pharmacists issuing certificates for absence from work and a Reference Guide - issuing certificates for absence from work involving minor conditions in pharmacy to assist pharmacists.

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