Medical certificates and medical records

December 14, 2007

When it comes to submitting medical certificates and medical records generally, members are advised as follows:

Permanent members do not always have to provide a medical certificate to the department as clause 23.7 of the Permanent Award allows for members to take sick leave without a medical certificate provided such absences do not exceed 3 separate occasions in any calendar year, are not taken on consecutive days of which none are public holidays and finally are not taken in relation to any matter that may be covered by workers’ compensation. 

Currently, the Union is working to have this sensible clause drafted into the new Retained Firefighters Award as well. When you think about it Retained Firefighters in country and remote parts of New South Wales may live hundreds of kilometres from a GP who in turn may not be able to see patients for several weeks.  As such, it seems pretty unreasonable to expect sick retained firefighters to travel for an hour or so to a doctor to obtain a medical certificate in all cases to claim sick leave.

Also you do not have to release your medical records to the department and you should not do so before contacting the Union first. Likewise the department cannot obtain your medical records or discuss your medical condition with your doctor or other medical professional without your written consent.

If you do provide a medical certificate to the department remember that it does not have to contain a specific diagnosis of your illness or injury.  The Permanent Award  at clause 23.2 states that medical certificates: “as far as possible, shall state the nature of the illness or incapacity…”.  While the Retained Award at clause 15.3 requires Firefighters provide “a medical certificate stating the nature of the illness or incapacity.” The Union has consistently maintained that in order to protect firefighters’ privacy and dignity, it is not always possible to precisely state the nature of the illness or incapacity.

It is not always good enough for the department though. In the recent past members have been threatened with docked wages and/or deductions to the non-sick leave of members whose doctors have not supplied a diagnosis on their medical certificates. Any member who is the subject of similar warnings or threats is advised to contact the Union office immediately, because the Union will take action.

Have a healthy festive season.

Simon Flynn
State Secretary