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Medical Certificates – are they now even easier for Employees to obtain?


A recent change to the Holidays Act 2003 has meant that further options are available to Employees in terms of who they can lawfully obtain a medical certificate from as proof of sickness or injury.

An Employer can request proof of sickness or injury after the Employee has been absent from work for three (3) calendar days or more. The Employer can also request proof of sickness or injury for a period of less than three (3) consecutive calendar days, however this is at the cost of the Employer. Proof is usually in the form of a medical certificate, but who can your Employee’s obtain a medical certificate from?

Gone are the days where medical certificates could only be obtained from medical practitioners, such as Doctors, your Employees can now obtain medical certificates from health practitioners as proof of sickness and/or injury.

So, you are probably asking yourself: what is the difference between a medical practitioner and a health practitioner? The differences in terms are defined under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (“the Act”) with a medical practitioner being defined as a health practitioner who is registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand, whereas a health practitioner is deemed to be registered with an authority of a particular health profession.

The Medical Council is a society within New Zealand that registers Doctors, whereas an ‘authority’ means a body corporate in accordance with the Act who is responsible for the registration and oversight of members of a particular health profession. An example of an authority includes: Chiropractic Board; Dieticians Board; Midwifery Council; Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board; Osteopathic Council and many more.

The Medical Council have released guidelines for the medical certificates which allows an Employer to challenge the authenticity of the injury or sickness requiring time off work. Under the Medical Council guidelines, a medical certificate is required to state the necessary information required by the agency receiving the certificate. Where a workplace injury or accident has occurred, the medical certificate should include both a diagnosis and the workplace factors that may have contributed.

Therefore, the change means that a medical certificate can now be obtained from a much wider range of professionals and so could well be easier for your Employee to obtain and could open a vast range of reasons for using sick leave that have not been seen in your business previously.

To date, none of the Health Practitioner authorities have produced guidelines to regulate the issuing of medical certificates or what those certificates need to contain as the Medical Council did in 2013. Therefore, this may create situations where Employees are obtaining medical certificates from those who are not qualified or appropriate to be completing the diagnosis. For example, what can you do if your male Employee obtains a medical certificate from a midwife for their sore foot? As an Employer, can you challenge this? Until regulating guidelines for issuing medical certificates by Health Practitioners are produced, it is accepted that in a situation like this common sense would prevail. You would be able to challenge the medical certificate on the basis that the Health Practitioner was not qualified to complete the diagnosis as it is outside of their area of expertise and request that your Employee obtains a medical certificate from an appropriate health or medical practitioner.   

So what does this change in legislation mean for you? It could mean that your employment agreements and/or leave policies need to be updated to accommodate for this change, or it could be that you need assistance in terms of understanding who could potentially be a health practitioner, or the difference between a medical practitioner and a health practitioner. Whatever it is, feel free to give the team at Russell Drake Consulting a call, they would be happy to help – 07 838 0018.