Business guide to Coronavirus

Are online medical certificates valid?

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increased need for remote doctors’ appointments, as more people stay home and only leave the house for the essentials. The increase in remote doctors’ appointments may also mean you start to see an increase in online medical certificates from your employees.

As we transition to a wide-reaching telehealth service to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and ease pressure on our health services, your employees will likely present an online medical certificate if they are unwell. But this raises the question, are online medical certificates valid? 

Let’s cover the basic requirements for a medical certificate 

A valid medical certificate (regardless of whether it is a physical or digital document) should contain a statement regarding the incapacity or illness of the patient (your employee), and the date upon which they can return to work. 

It should also contain the name of your employee, information on the medical practitioner, and the date of the examination. Medical certificates should be addressed directly to you as the employer. 

Who can issue medical certificates? 

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, a medical certificate should be issued by a registered medical practitioner. This is defined as a person who is registered or licensed as a medical practitioner with the Medical Board of Australia.

You can check whether the practitioner listed on your employee's medical certificate is registered by looking them up on the Medical Board of Australia’s website

If you suspect a medical certificate is false, simply look up the doctor’s first and last name in the register – or try their medical registration number. 

What about online certificates?

Medical certificates issued after a remote consultation are valid, provided they meet the Medical Board of Australia’s guidelines for online consultations

The guidelines are similar to what you’d expect from a face to face consultation, including keeping accurate records and assessing the patient's condition appropriately. 

Challenging a medical certificate

If you feel an employee has supplied a false medical certificate, you can challenge them. Firstly, you can seek permission from the employee to speak to their doctor and confirm the authenticity of the certificate. 

You could also challenge an employee’s medical certificate by presenting them with evidence that contradicts the information on the certificate. But be sure you appropriately gather this information. 

Keep in mind, while there are successful challenge cases, a medical certificate is generally regarded as irrefutable proof that an employee was legitimately absent.

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