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Employer-required 'sick notes' are public health risks, doctors say

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Employee 'sick notes' are public health risks, doctors say. (Photo: Ilmicrofono Oggiono via MGN)

If your employer requires you to get a doctor's note for missed work, that might pose a public health risk, according to the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

Researchers found that 80 percent of Canadians surveyed said they would go to work while they were sick if they were required to get a doctor's note to miss work, according to Global News Canada.

Dr. Gigi Osler, an ear, nose and throat surgeon and the former president of the CMA said:

Requiring sick notes introduces an unnecessary public health risk, if you now have sick people who would’ve otherwise stayed home going to doctor’s offices, walk-in clinics or emergency rooms just to get [one].

Dr. Kate Hayman, an emergency doctor at the University Health Network in Toronto explained how sick notes pose risks to the general public:

We consider work to be a major social determinant of health and that workplace policy really impacts people’s health. From my perspective in the E.R., we worry when people are coming in sick with viral illnesses or infectious diseases. We see a lot of people who are immune-compromised because of their chronic conditions. If a worker is coming to get a note because their employer requires it and they’re coughing and sneezing in the waiting room, that puts other people at risk.

Doctors say one way to combat this problem is to require the employer to pay for the visit for a sick note since they are the ones requiring it. But, that's not enough, Osler says. "It still doesn’t solve the issues of placing an undue burden on someone who should be resting at home."