Can a business request a medical certificate from an ill or injured worker? Or, direct a worker to attend a medical assessment?

The short answer is: yes, if the request or direction is reasonable and relates to the worker’s fitness for work.

For example, a BHP Coal worker received surgery to treat a workplace injury, and was off work for 8 months. BHP Coal wanted to ensure that the worker was fit for work before rostering him back on duty, so directed him to attend a medical assessment. When the worker refused to attend the appointment, he was dismissed. The Fair Work Commission (and later the Federal Court) said that BHP Coal’s actions were reasonable and rejected the worker’s unfair dismissal claim.

We recommend that all businesses:

  • Get properly insured. Workers compensation insurance is compulsory. No ifs, ands or buts. However, have you also considered employment or management practices liability cover to cover your defence and claim costs if you wrongfully dismiss an ill or injured worker?

  • Be proactive. If you are concerned that a worker may not be fit for work, don’t just do nothing and hope for the best. Often you will have the right to request a medical certificate confirming fitness for work. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to direct the worker to attend a medical assessment or to immediately stand-down.

  • Get help. There are plenty of places to go for guidance if you get stuck, and our specialist employment law and workplace team is only a phone call away.

For further information, or to make an appointment to discuss your workplace, contact Allyson Hogan, Director at [email protected]