Your sick note from the doctor may no longer be an (uncomfortable) paid leave of absence. Infact you might not even be sick enough to stay at home at all.
Following the UK’s introduction of the ‘fit note’ Australia is taking the first steps to employing a system whereby doctors will certify what sick or injured employees might in fact be fit to do if their illness or injury means they are not fit to fill their usual post.
Visiting Australia this week is health expert Dr Carol Black, who led the transition from the sick note to the fit note system in Britain. Dame Black expressed her opposition to the sick note system saying employers have alternatives to simply sending the sick or injured home. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald she is quoted as saying that; “I think it’s a very unhelpful concept because if somebody labels you as sick, you emotionally and mentally start to think of yourself as sick.” Dr Carol addressed federal government and the workplace insurer Comcare in Canberra about this proposal.
She added that; “Many of the reasons that we don’t go to work is because we do have problems and we do have worries that are perfectly containable and we can deal with them. So I’d rather we looked at what people can do rather than what they can’t do.”
The fit note will certify, in your doctor’s opinion, where you might be fit to work if your illness or injury prevents you from fulfilling your normal workplace role. Forcing employers to accommodate you elsewhere within the organization while you recover. This might mean a change in environment, different working conditions or a phased return to work. Your doctor will, at his discretion, also be able to suggest the patient’s participation in wellness programs and even altering their normal office hours.
The program, soon to be tested in Canberra, allegedly enjoys the support of Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews and Employment Minister Eric Abetz with the long-term goal of converting from the current sick note system to the UK’s fit note program.
“GPs have to learn a new language and to think differently,” said Black, “Because in the past we didn’t know much about occupational health or the value of work, it’s been a bit easy to sign the certificate without realising that if you sign a lot of those, people will leave the workplace.
“But we know now that people who are not in work are not as well mentally, are not as well physically and some of the results show that they die earlier.”
IMAGE: Shutterstock.com (Karin)