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Mandatory medical certificates set to be expe -

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(generated from captions) with that. Mary Gearin with that report. For decades, sick leave has been enshrined as a minimum condition of employment for Australian workers.

It remains that way under the Government's industrial relations overhaul. But what will change once the legislation goes through

is that all employers will have the right to demand a medical certificate from their workers for each and every day of illness, rather than just one certificate to cover how ever many days a worker takes off. Though it's an option for employers rather than mandatory, trade unions are already claiming that mandatory medical certificates are likely to become a feature of the workplace overtime and doctors are concerned that it's an extra load

of unnecessary paperwork. Employer groups have dismissed the objections as nothing more than a scare campaign.

Heather Ewart reports on a little-known element of the Government's workplace changes.

In today's workplace, many Australians

In today's workplace, many Australians are allowed on average

up to four days of sick leave

up to four days of sick leave before having to produce a doctor's

certificate. A few more days. I

think going back tomorrow is

optimistic. Under the government's

industrial relations shake-up, all

employers will now have the option

to demand a certificate from day

one. And if you don't, you'd be at

risk potentially of losing your

day's pay. It adds pressure to risk potentially of losing your day's pay. It adds pressure to work

ing families when they are already

under enough pressure. There's

nothing in the change that would

nothing in the change that would say that there will be a huge influx of

requirements for certificates

anymore than there are today. This

is a scare campaign. We already

is a scare campaign. We already know that there's about 100 million

visits a year by Australians to GPs, so

visits a year by Australians to GPs, so who knows how many more visits

would be required. We've got to

would be required. We've got to get a grip. Get some reality back into

the situation. Use of common sense.

Treat people as adults. Give them

the benefit of some leeway with

their sick leave. Tucked away on

page 117 of the 700-page workplace page 117 of the 700-page workplace rels

page 117 of the 700-page Workplace Relations Amendment Bill is a

page 117 of the 700-page Workplace Relations Amendment Bill is a short

5-point explanation of the new sick

leave provisions, enabling

leave provisions, enabling employers to insist on medical certificate.

This has not been highlighted or

promoted by the government. Yet,

promoted by the government. Yet, how it is put no practice could have

wide-spread ramifications. There

wide-spread ramifications. There are some employers undoubtedly who

some employers undoubtedly who would see this as a way of titaning up on

what they might regard as people

Abbasing their sick leave

Abbasing their sick leave entitlements or accessive

absenteeism. Others might be

inclined to follow suit. People

might think my employer isn't going

to do that and we'll be OK. What

happens ultimately is the culture

happens ultimately is the culture of workplaces change and it will

increasingly become an expect

increasingly become an expect sthaun for every sick day you must produce

a medical certificate. #6 Just for today and tomorrow. It's a medical certificate. #6 Just for today and tomorrow. It's not just

the unions who are worried. The

doctors are sweating on this,

doctors are sweating on this, saying they're already bogged down with

they're already bogged down with too much paperwork and can't cope with

anymore. One of the biggest

anymore. One of the biggest reasons for people leaving the medical

profession today is the huge burden

of red tape and paperwork they are

having to undergo. There's a

having to undergo. There's a severe man power shortage at the moment.

We've not enough dock hours to do

the medical work. We have to

maximise that and be efficient with the medical work. We have to maximise that and be efficient with

our time. Doing certificates for

things that are unnecessary is

probably over the top. The medical

profession's plea to employers is

"please don't force your workers to

add to already overcrowded waiting

rooms with ailments like the common

cold just so they can get a

cold just so they can get a doctor's certificate." We've got to

understand that this whole ethos of

a certificate for everything,

whether it's child care, day care,

swimming, school and even

swimming, school and even employment for common colds is really a

situation spinning out of control.

This clinic in inner suburban

Melbourne is one of a diminishing

number that still offers

bulk-billing so it's always busy.

The management fears that the new

laws could mean doctors will have

laws could mean doctors will have to make difficult choices about who to

treat. To have an additional

treat. To have an additional requirement for Paul Medhursts

requirement for Paul Medhursts would just increase the strain on the

system and and it could be an extra

million visits a year or two

million visits a year or two million however some will miss out because

there's not an unlimited supply of

those. There are concerns, too,

about flow-on effects. The more you

clog up health care, the more

clog up health care, the more likely it is that others have to find

it is that others have to find other places to go for medical services

and the impact. Obviously the one

place that's open 24 hours a day to

get medical support is the

get medical support is the emergency department of the hospital. The

doctors argue these are just some

doctors argue these are just some of the potential side effects the

government hasn't thought through

when a drafted page 117 of the work

police changes. But of course

police changes. But of course what's unknown here is how many employers

might be tempted to take up the new

option and that's a matter of some

dispute. For example, in option and that's a matter of some dispute. For example, in some

existing awards that cover areas

like hospitality and clothing

trades, there are already

trades, there are already provisions for employers to demand a medical

certificate or statutory

from day one of a worker's illness. certificate or statutory declaration

Key employer groups point out that

other industries have not

automatically followed suit.

A large proportion haven't because

they haven't thought it necessary

their particular industry and there they haven't thought it necessary in is no reason why is no reason why they would their particular industry and there

necessarily move to this under the

new system. Look, when you give all

of these power s

of these powers to employers it is

likely a number of employers are

going to use these powers. Employer

groups counter in any event worker

also have protection if they can't

produce a certificate due to

circumstances beyond their control.

The fact is that the legislation

provides a safety net for employ yeses that

yeses that allows them an exemption provides a safety net for employ

due to no fault of their own they

can't complay. But if an employer

takes the view that, look, I think

you could have got a medical

certificate, it's going to be very

hard for an employee to dispute

that. They'd have to go to court to

try and argue that they're entitled

to be paid for the day they took

and for most employees that's just to be paid for the day they took off

not going to be a not going to be a practical option. and for most employees that's just

The minister for workplace

Kevin Andrews was unavailable for The minister for workplace relations

interview but his office pointed to Kevin Andrews was unavailable for an

blue flu as some justification for

the changes. That's when workers

take sick leave to avoid

prohibitions on strike action.

Blue flu has plagued building and

construction sites in Perth over

past three months. Employees with construction sites in Perth over the

the support of their unions have

walked off the job, taken strike

action, but then come to their

employer the next day and say, "We

were all sick, so we'd like to be

paid sick leave." Building industry

employers in Western Australia are

delighted they now have the option

to say no. The benefit is with a

more focus currently on these to say no. The benefit is with a lot

employers perhaps are going to be more focus currently on these issues

more aware they have the right to

demand proof of illness before

employees are paid for sick leave.

The final word on this from the

doctors, who warn that employers

pay an unexpected price if they doctors, who warn that employers may

seize upon their new sick leave

powers. It's quite possible people

will go to work when it's not the

right thing to do and it is

important they do think twice about

going to work because it can

actually infect their colleague ps

and bring the workplace down.

And that could well prove to be a

powerful deterrent for many

employers. A word of clarification

on the introduction to that story

before we move on, the change does

not mean the prospect of a separate

medical certificate for each and

every day's sick leave, but a