What You Need to Know About Online Medical Certificates: Are They Legal?

Stethoscope on laptop begs the question are online medical certificates legal?

Medical certificates are documents that are issued by medical practitioners to indicate to employers the status of an individual’s health, such as an injury or illness. They are typically required when taking time off work for more than one day, however, some employers require them for even one day off.

Due to the rise of online medical services, there have been concerns that digitally issued medical certificates are neither legal nor accepted by workplaces. In this blog post, we will not only answer the all-important question of ‘Are medical certificates legal?’ but will also delve into the definition, purpose and differences between traditional and online medical certificates. We’ll also be covering the acceptance by employers throughout Australia.

Traditional Medical Certificates

Traditional medical certificates are predominately issued by qualified healthcare professionals, such as doctors. They indicate an individual’s health status while providing additional information to determine the activities the employee may perform, such as no heavy lifting, etc. Traditional medical certificates are obtained by visiting a doctor’s clinic or hospital, often requiring a physical examination.

Common uses of traditional medical certificates include requesting sick leave, applying for disability benefits, and filing insurance claims. It is important to note that traditional medical certificates are legally recognised documents that provide proof of an individual’s medical condition and ability to perform their job duties.

Sick Certificates

Is an online medical certificate valid?

Sick certificates are unofficial legal certificates used as evidence for an employee to take a day or a few days off work due to an illness. Depending on the type of evidence, these can be issued by doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths and nurse practitioners. Some of the essential information contained in a sick certificate includes the healthcare professional’s details, the recommended duration the patient should be away from work and the date the examination took place.

The Fair Work Ombudsman of Australia states that a medical certificate is an acceptable form of evidence for an employee to present to their employer. The rules also state that there are no strict criteria on the evidence that needs to be presented as long as it convinces a reasonable person that the employee was genuinely entitled to sick or carer’s leave. 

It’s important to note that the validity of sick certificates for sick leave varies depending on the employer, industry and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to consult with the employer’s Human Resources department or the person to whom the patient reports or review the company’s policies to understand the requirements for sick leave and the documentation needed to support such leave.

Online Medical Certificates

Online medical certificates have become increasingly popular since the pandemic, due to the inability of patients to visit doctors directly. These certificates are sent via email after a virtual consultation with a doctor. The consultation can occur on a video call, phone call or even live chat, thanks to cloud-based medical portals. These certificates are used to justify sick leave without the need for a patient to leave their premises to assist in avoiding the spread of infectious diseases. 

But are online medical certificates valid? To understand this, it is important to note that not all online medical certificates are legally recognised or accepted by employers. In fact, the validity of online medical certificates is not recognised in certain jurisdictions. It’s important to research the regulatory jurisdiction before requesting an online medical certificate. However, we’ll discuss this in more detail later on.

It’s also crucial to differentiate between online sick certificates and carer’s leave certificates. Carer’s leave certificates are intended for individuals caring for someone with a disability, injury, or acute or chronic illness. They should not be mistaken for sick certificates.

Legal Regulations and Jurisdictions

In Australia, the National Employment Standards (NES), which are the fundamental work standards under the Fair Work system, are outlined in the Fair Work Act of 2009. These standards cover various types of leaves, like annual leave and personal/carer’s leave, intended for individuals caring for someone with a disability, injury, or ongoing illness. Understanding the Fair Work system’s regulations is essential when assessing the legality of online medical certificates in Australia.

Even if employers accept online certificates, specific prerequisites might need to be followed, including:

  • An authorised doctor or relevant healthcare professional signs the certificate.
  • All details in the certificate are confirmed as accurate.
  • Fulfilment of any additional requirements stipulated by jurisdictional laws or regulations.

With this knowledge, a medical certificate from a telehealth doctor holds legal weight if it contains all the necessary information. Guidelines set by the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the primary professional organisation for doctors in Australia, specify typical requirements for a medical certificate:

  • The doctor’s name and address of who issued the certificate.
  • The patient’s name.
  • The date of the examination.
  • The date when the certificate was given.
  • The date(s) when the patient wasn’t fit to attend.

Certificates should be dated on the same day they are written. The guidelines are explicit that backdating certificates should never happen. However, there might be situations where the doctor can confirm that the illness started before the examination date.

Validity and Acceptance of Online Sick Leave Certificates

The Fair Work Ombudsman places significant importance on the use of medical certificates as valid forms of evidence for sick or carer’s leave. While there is flexibility in the type of evidence provided, the key factor is that the evidence should “convince a reasonable person that the employee was genuinely entitled to the sick or carer’s leave.”

In this context, online sick leave certificates have gained widespread acceptance among numerous employers throughout Australia. This acceptance is a testament to the convenience and efficiency that these certificates offer. However, it’s crucial to align with your company’s HR policies, which are typically established through a registered agreement with the Fair Work Commission.

It’s worth noting that the majority of employers accept online sick leave certificates, however, some may still only accept traditional medical certificates or request further evidence. By understanding and adhering to your company’s policies, you can confidently navigate the process of using online sick leave certificates or online carer’s leave certificates for your workplace.

Conclusion

In conclusion, medical certificates hold a vital role within workplaces, ensuring that employers are well-informed about the health of their employees and granting the necessary recovery time for those who are unwell or injured. Moreover, it’s of utmost importance to comprehend the distinctions between traditional and online medical certificates. This includes having an awareness of the legal regulations that oversee them in order to ensure their authenticity. 

If your workplace recognises sick leave certificates from pharmacists and you’re currently seeking a reliable solution, we’re here to help. Our platform offers online sick leave certificates, conveniently provided within minutes. Don’t hesitate to choose us as your provider if you’re in need of a swift and authentic solution for your sick leave needs. Your health matters, and we’re here to simplify the process for you.

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