Sick Notes: The Drama of Privacy and Accountability

Sick Notes: The Drama of Privacy and Accountability

Why is the Requirement for Sick Notes Making Headlines in Nova Scotia?

An employer’s ability to ask an employee for a sick note has been in the news lately given that Nova Scotia has recently restricted an employer’s ability to require a medical note. The issue of medical notes is always a tricky subject, as there is a need to balance employee privacy rights with an employer’s right to know if the employee is away because of a legitimate medical issue.

In 2014, the Ontario Medical Association took the position that employees should not be required to provide medical notes for something such as the flu, as requiring employees to go to the doctor’s office while sick only leads to further spread of the virus. However, Ontario law still permits employers to require a medical note from employees if it is “reasonable in the circumstances”.  This leads to a lot of subjective assessments as to what is reasonable and can cause issues for both employers and employees alike.

Sick Notes and Employee Privacy: What’s the Dilemma?

Before asking for a medical note, employers must ask themselves if a medical note really is necessary and if it is reasonable to request one. For example, if the employee says they have the flu and will be back at work in a day or two, it likely is not going to be reasonable to demand that you have your sick employee go to the doctor’s office for a medical note. However, if the employee claims to be unable to work for weeks, requesting a medical note is likely not only reasonable but likely necessary for an employer to comply with Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the employer’s need to accommodate an employee’s medical disability.

Legal Guidance: Seeking Clarity on Medical Note Requirements

If you are an employee looking to better understand your rights regarding medical notes, or an employer seeking more information about when you can require a medical note from an employee we encourage you to seek legal advice on the matter. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

Author – Nasyr Asmi