POLL: ‘Sick note’ more hassle than help

By Sarah Stone
January 15, 2014 - 6:19am

Every person who’s ever held a job has likely had to take a sick day, but the process required by their employer to do so, can vary.

For some employees, a ‘sick note’ from a physician is needed in order to get paid for that day off. But Prince Albert Regional Medical Association president Dr. Stan Oleksinski said he and many of those employees are tired of having to deal with those notes.

“It’s not that the physicians don’t mind giving sick notes. That’s not the point whether we mind or not. I mean … if the main reason for them coming in is only to get a note, I mean, that’s not really the best appropriate use of any health care provider’s resources,” he said.

Oleksinski can see these patients that require sick notes “many times a day, every day.”

He said if somebody has a minor illness that could be treated with rest and fluids, they shouldn’t have to go to the doctor’s office to get a note.

“We understand that employers want to make sure their employees are being off work appropriately, but to necessarily blanket that everybody has to do that if there’s a problem in the workforce, they should deal with the problem that it as opposed to saying everybody needs a sick note for even one day if absent,” he said, adding the situation could be different if an employee is missing 20-30 days on a consistent, yearly basis.

But in most cases that is not the situation. “Most people are very legitimate that come to see us. There might be the odd person that comes in and [fakes illness],” he said.

As a matter of fact, for those who are required to get a sick note for something like a cold, this could make the situation worse.

“They have to actual bundle up, go outside, they have to go to the physician’s office, so they are potential spreading their germs as well as they are potentially exposed to other germs which may even be worse than the ones they currently have,” he explained.

It’s not even a good use of time and resources for the employer that has to collect and sort through the notes, according to Oleksinski.

CEO of the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce Merle Lacert said sick note policies have caused waves in the workforce.

“Sick leave and absences resulting from sickness or illness definitely are having a large impact on employers and I think depending on the size of the employer, will also depend on the size of the impact. If it’s a larger employer they may have other resources to use to call in. For smaller employers, they usually end up working short and you can see those impacts whether it be in service continuity of the service, etcetera,” Lacert explained.

He’s experienced it in the past himself and he said it’s a very difficult situation. The main point of the sick note is to ensure employees aren’t unduly missing work.

“For some employers they’re dealing with, kind of, habitual attendance issues they do try and address it through a number of means and one of those means is request sick notes for each absence, which of course can create quite a strain for the employer just to manage the process. It creates more strain on physicians and their resources.

But at this point, Lacert isn’t sure if this strategy is effective because of those reasons “creating more work than any positive can come from it.”

He said if employers were to look at the issue he suggests creating a workplace where employees are engaged, which would increase loyalty and the desire to go to work—therefore, decreasing absences.

“It’s definitely a current problem for employers to deal with. I would just say that not any given solution will work for all employers. Each of the employers will have to look what you need for them.

-with files from Chelsea Laskowski

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