The Federal Court has confirmed the importance of Medical Certificates in a judgement involving the dismissal of Adam Marshall, a Bureau or Meteorology ('BOM') employee. To read the full facts surrounding the case and the ruling by the Federal Court in favour of Marshall against BOM, the ruling can be seen here.
The heart of the finding by the Federal Magistrate's court was that a medical certificate cannot be ignored by an employer when provided by a registered medical practitioner. The employer may be sceptical as to the medical certificate's contents, or believe that the medical evidence provided to the doctor was unacceptable or even fabricated. Regardless of the employer's opinion, without having sound evidence to the contrary or be in a position to appropriately challenge the authenticity of the medical claim(s) made within the medical certificate, the employer can simply not ignore or dismiss its contents when provided by a registered medical practitioner. Of course, if there is significant doubt or concern held by an employer, the employer is within their rights to request a second opinion from a registered medical provider of their choosing. A recent decision by the Fair Work Commission confirmed this in a case between Grant v BHP Coal Pty Ltd  FWC 1712.
The finding in the Federal Magistrates court supports the value and importance of having a genuine medical certificate, provided by a registered medical practitioner, where a patient is clearly ill. However, if there are doubts held by an employer, they have the right to request a second opinion from a doctor of their choosing.
Taking sick leave without a valid medical or doctor’s certificate
The situation is different where an employee is taking a sickie without necessarily having a valid and genuine reason other than to satisfy a personal passion. In this situation most employees are probably out of luck as was the case between Nathan Anderson and the Crown Melbourne Limited.
Anderson, a mad Essendon 'Bombers' supporter, as well as a Kevin Sheedy and James Hird fanactic, thought he would chuck a sickie and head across to Subiaco, Western Australia to see an Aussie rules footbal match between Essendon and the West Coast Eagles. Both Kevin Sheedy and James Hird were retiring and it was important to Anderson to see them off in their final and farewell match. Anderson had attempted to find someone to take his shift, but unable to do so he went to see a doctor to secure a medical certificate to cover the sick day he had planned to take to cover his trip to Perth to see the match. He was quite explicit to the doctor in stating that he was heading to Perth to the see the game and as a consequence needed a medical certificate to cover his absence from work.
Unfortunately for Anderson the doctor obliged and issued a medical certificate. Anderson called in sick and left for Perth believing he was entitled to do so and that his job was secure on the basis of attaining a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner - Anderson ultimately lost his job but not because of the reasons you might be thinking.
It was not because there was no temporary illness or injury, nor that the medical certificate issued to him was not supported by a valid and verifiable illness or injury. While these two statements are true, they were not the reasons provided by Crown in terminating Anderson. Rather, Anderson lost his job because he called in sick without regard for his employer or employment, in doing so his behaviour amounted to misconduct.
It was because of this behaviour, and in effect, the manner in which he went about calling in sick that meant he lost his job. To put it in more legalistic terms: Anderson had "simply absented himself wilfully and in circumstances amounting to misconduct." Simply put, he called in sick and blew the Crown casino off leaving them to find someone else to fill his shift. He showed little care or regard for his employer or his job. Crown really had no choice but to turn around and fire him despite having a valid medical certificate provided by a practicing medical professional.
As the title to this blog suggests, not all sickies are created equal. Having a medical certificate, even if that medical certificate is provided by a doctor or registered medical practitioner may not be in and of itself sufficient to save you from the consequences of your actions, particularly if the motive or the manner is clearly questionable and open to challenge.