The Workplace Relations Act 1996 as amended by the WorkChoices reforms provide Australian employees who are covered by the Act with a minimum entitlement to "personal leave". Personal leave comprises paid sick leave, paid carer’s leave, unpaid carer’s leave and paid compassionate leave. All permanent employees covered by the Act are entitled to personal leave, while casual employees are entitled to unpaid carer’s leave only.
An employee must provide their employer with documentary evidence of the requirement to take leave. For an employee to be granted a period of carer’s leave they must produce a medical certificate from a "registered health practitioner" stating that his or her immediate family member or household member had, has or will have a personal illness or injury. Where it is not reasonably practicable to obtain a certificate, a statutory declaration must be provided.
An employee who is temporarily absent from work because of illness or injury must also provide a medical certificate from a "registered health practitioner". The broad definition of "registered medical practitioner" potentially means an employer may have to accept a medical certificate from a large class of practitioners, including all physical and mental health professionals, such as chiropractors, dentists, medical practitioners, nurses and physiotherapists. The broad scope of the term has been criticised by the Australian Medical Association who are concerned that the term can cover osteopaths, chiropractors, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, chemists, optometrists, optical dispensers and podiatrists.
The implications for employers is that they should always consider the area of expertise of the practitioner providing a medical certificate and if the reason the employee is unfit for work is outside the ambit of the area of practice, employers may deny the validity of the certificate.
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