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Medical examinations are health check-ups when someone sees a doctor or visits a hospital about an illness or injury they may have. As an employer, you cannot force an employee to undergo a medical examination. If you do, this could lead to unconsenting breaches of people’s bodily privacy. However, there are other options to take if you require a second opinion on your employee’s state of health.

This article will set out:

  • your options regarding injured or sick employees; 
  • when you can require proof of illness or sickness; and 
  • what to do if you have a worker who is misusing sick leave. 

Can Employers Require Medical Examinations or Proof of Sickness?

As an employer, you cannot force an employee to have a medical examination. This is because consent is central to a medical procedure or something else that involves a person’s bodily autonomy. However, while you cannot necessarily force your employees to see a doctor, there are other reasonable steps you can take. 

The most common step is requesting proof that an employee is sick. You can do this once they have been sick for three or more consecutive days. Usually, your employee will then have to get a note from their doctor. In some circumstances, you can request proof of illness or injury before three days pass. However, you must agree to pay for the doctor’s fees if this is the case. 

Additionally, if you have good reason to believe that one of your employees is impaired (injured or sick), you can suspend them. This is subject to the usual legal requirements around suspension. It does not usually matter how your employee became impaired. For instance, they do not necessarily have to have become injured or sick at work.

Process for Asking for Proof of Sickness

The process for asking an employee for proof of sickness or injury is relatively simple. As an employer, you cannot tell an employee which doctor or medical establishment they have to go to. An employee can go to a place of their choosing.

To ‘prove’ their sickness or injury, employees obtain a medical certificate from a doctor. This note should detail that the employee is sick or injured and that they are unable to work. If their spouse, partner or dependent is sick, they are also entitled to sick leave. Usually, your employees pay for this doctor’s visit. However, your business may need to pay for this if you ask for it before three days of consecutive sick leave. If your employee refuses to obtain or provide a medical certificate, you do not have to pay their wages or salary when they are absent on sick leave.

Employees in New Zealand get at least five days of sick leave each year. This will depend on how long your employee has worked for you. If your employment agreement gives them an entitlement to additional sick leave, you must pay the full amount of sick leave that the employee is entitled to.

What to Do if Your Employee Is Not Sick or Is Otherwise Misusing Sick Leave

It can be a serious disciplinary matter if an employee is misusing their sick leave. You should seek specific advice from an employment lawyer if you believe that an employee is not sick but is claiming to be. It can be a breach of good faith if you do not have a reasonable basis for making such a serious allegation. 

However, if you think that an employee is misusing their sick leave entitlement, you can deal with this as an employment relationship problem. There may be instances where you do not ask for proof of sickness or a doctor’s note at the time of the sick leave. However, you can still use your business’ normal processes for investigating the issue and approach it as a possible disciplinary matter.

Key Takeaways

As an employer, you cannot require employees to have a medical examination. However, you can require proof of sickness, such as a medical certificate after three days. Your business does not usually need to pay sick leave if your employee does not obtain or refuses to provide a medical certificate. You can suspend an employee who is sick or otherwise injured. In serious situations where an employee is misusing their sick leave in some way, this can amount to a disciplinary matter. Employers should seek legal advice and consider investigating the issue. 

If you want to know more about managing employees and sick leave, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a medical examination?

A medical examination can be a doctor’s appointment or a hospital visit – any procedure where a person’s health is being checked. In the employment context, it usually refers to seeing a doctor to ascertain the extent of an injury or illness.

Can you require an employee to have a medical examination?

No, employers cannot force an employee to get a medical examination. However, they can require a doctor’s note or another form of ‘proof of sickness’ after an employee takes three days of sick leave consecutively.

Can an employer choose where an employee goes to obtain a medical certificate or doctor’s note?

No, an employee can go to a doctor or other medical establishment of their choosing.

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