No More Sick Notes
New legislation ensures workers can take at least 10 sick days a year without a doctor’s note
“This becomes one less thing to worry about when you’re not feeling well,” said Health Minister Eric Hoskins at a news conference at Women’s College Hospital.
Sick notes for the boss could soon be a thing of the past in Ontario.
Employers will be banned from asking staff for a doctor’s note if they take 10 or fewer days a year under legislation proposed to take effect next January.
The measure, part of the workplace reform law Premier Kathleen Wynne’s administration has put forward, means fewer wasted appointments for doctors and nurse practitioners, allowing workers to stay home and get well instead of spreading their germs around, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Thursday.
“This becomes one less thing to worry about when you’re not feeling well,” Hoskins, a family physician, told a news conference at Women’s College Hospital.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, who is shepherding the labour reforms that include a $15 minimum wage by 2019, said the law will ensure all workers are entitled to at least 10 personal emergency leave days annually, two of which must be paid.
Reasons for personal emergency leave can include illness or taking care of sick family members along with domestic or sexual violence or the threat of it.
Flynn said “most employers” no longer require sick notes, but the ban will force others in line with more modern employment practices.
As well, it will take precedence over any sick note terms in collective agreements, Flynn added.
Dr. Ruth Heisey, chief of family medicine at Women’s College, applauded the move, saying it makes “good common sense” from a public health perspective.
People will be more likely to take sick days and not drag themselves into work where they could infect colleagues, leading to more absenteeism on the job, and doctors can concentrate on patients who need medical care instead of a note.
Hoskins said some patients were required to pay for doctor’s notes because they are not covered under provincial health insurance.
Employers will, however, be entitled to ask for sick notes if a worker misses more than 10 days a year for illnesses, he added, noting the “vast majority” of Ontarians don’t take that many sick days.
In many cases, patients will turn up at doctor’s offices seeking sick notes once they’re feeling better and ready to return to work, which means the missives have “little if any validity,” because physicians write them based on trust in their patients, Hoskins said.
The Ontario Medical Association has also pushed for an end to sick notes.
Flynn’s workplace reforms in the Liberal government’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act include forcing employers to pay part-time workers the same hourly wages as full-timers, and provide three weeks of vacation after five years in a job — up from two weeks now.