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Doctors demand Aussie bosses scrap 'pointless' sickie rule: 'Costs $50'

Workplaces can ask for proof that you're sick even if you're taking less than one day off.

Workplaces are being called on to scrap the practice of asking employees to provide medical certificates in certain scenarios. Every business will have its own policy when it comes to asking for proof when workers call in sick.

Some will demand a note after just one day off, whereas others might be a bit more lenient. Tim*, a GP who works in Byron Bay, told Yahoo Finance that around a fifth of the patients he typically sees every day are for work-related medical certificates.

He said the majority will have an in-person appointment at his private clinic, which costs them around $50 after the Medicare rebate kicks in. But he said they really shouldn't have to do this.

NSW GP Max Mollenkopf next to person calling in sick for work
NSW GP Max Mollenkopf is one of several doctors who believe there needs to be a change in how workplaces determine workers are sick. (Source: LinkedIn/Getty)

Has being sick cost you? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

"Adults with a viral illness don't need to see a GP," he explained. "They need to stay at home and get better."

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In addition to the $50 appointment fee, Aussies also have to fork out for transport and medications, if necessary. As winter gets into full swing, there could be an uptick in the number of workers becoming sick with the cold or other illnesses.

NSW GP Max Mollenkopf said patients who don't need care but just the medical certificate can take away appointments from people who really need them.

"If someone is sick and they want to see me, every day of the week I want them to be able to come in," he explained to the ABC. "I didn't sign up to do medicine to do HR policy on behalf of large corporations."

Tim added it's "annoying" when people come to his clinic for the most bizarre reasons.

"I had this very tall patient, like super tall...had to duck coming in the door," he recalled to Yahoo Finance. "He wanted an adjustable height desk at work. His work asked him to get a medical certificate stating he was tall."

Medical certificates are needed to ensure an employee taking several days off as sick leave really is ill.

The Fair Work Commission said it's up to employers to make their own policy and they "can ask employees to provide evidence for as little as one day or less off work".

"An employee who doesn't give their employer evidence when asked may not be entitled to be paid for their sick or carer’s leave," Fair Work said.

Geoff* is a GP in Melbourne and told Yahoo Finance there should be a nationally recognised policy to allow workers to have three days off without needing to prove they're sick.

"Beyond 72 hours is fair enough, but for short, self-limiting illnesses it’s pointless," he said.

"Also for patients who don’t see a GP regularly, they are not eligible for a Medicare rebate for a telehealth consultation, meaning they either pay a full fee or they attend face-to-face with their symptoms like flu or gastro and expose other patients to this in the waiting room."

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