Employers incl RTW Coordinators are not allowed to attend doctors appointments

boss-not-welcome-medical-appointment

aworkcovervictimsdiary received a shocking email from an injured worker last night, whose employer (a large public hospital) insisted that the injured worker’s “return to work coordinator” be allowed to attend the injured worker’s medical appointment with his specialist orthopedic surgeon, in order “to clarify” the injured worker’s “current fitness for work” status with the surgeon!

boss-not-allowed-to-attend-injured-worker-medical-apptWhen the injured worker refused his return to work coordinator to attend his private (really) medical appointment, he was told that this would be seen as unreasonably refusing cooperation with a return to work plan and that he may lose his entitlements (implying that he could well be terminated). The horrified injured worker subsequently contacted us and asked us what his rights were.

Employers including RTW Coordinators are not allowed to attend doctors appointments

In September 2012, in a media release, The Fair Work Ombudsman  condemned the behaviour of those employers who insist on attending the private and confidential medical appointments of their  injured or ill workers.It is concerned that such intrusive conduct is a breach of employee privacy, and may have ‘negative consequences’ for the workplace culture of a business.

The ACTU alerted Fairfax Media to complaints by members that some employers have been seeking to seriously intrude on their private medical appointments and, in some cases, forcing them to attend company doctors or pressuring medical practitioners to alter medical certificates and return-to-work (RTW) plans. How disgusting!

These allegations have prompted the Ombudsman to issue the statement clarifying its stance on employee medical conferences:

An unreasonable breach of privacy

The Fair Work Ombudsman does not condone or support this behaviour and sees no reason why an employer should seek to attend a private and confidential appointment with an employee, unless specifically requested to do so by the employee.

The laws around sick leave and personal leave are quite simple. While an employer may request evidence that would substantiate the reason for an employee’s entitlement to personal/carer leave, a medical certificate or statutory declaration is generally considered an acceptable form of evidence.

The Fair Work Ombudsman does not consider that it is reasonable for an employer to seek to attend a medical appointment with the employee for this purpose and views this as a breach of the employee’s privacy.

Processes to deal with fraudulence

The Fair Work Ombudsman has great respect for the medical profession and there are well established processes within the profession for dealing with practitioners who issue a fraudulent or unjustified certificate; and against an employee if they provide the wrong information that led to the issuing of a certificate.It is not the role of the employer to attend the appointment in order to determine a certificate’s validity.

Bosses must only request reasonable evidence

When considering a request for personal/carer’s leave, an employer must only request evidence that “would satisfy a reasonable person” that the leave was taken because of an employee’s illness or injury. If an employee provides this evidence, the employer must grant the request.The Fair Work Ombudsman believes that creating trusting relationships with employees is integral to achieving a positive and productive workplace.When considering requests for personal/carer’s leave, it is important for employers to respect their employee’s privacy and to only obtain evidence that is relevant to substantiate the absence. The cause and nature of their absence is not necessary, except in unusual or exceptional circumstances.

When an employer questions or intrudes into the nature of an employee’s illness or injury, it may have negative consequences for the workplace culture of a business.’

The Ombudsman also advised employers and employees (injured and ill workers) to visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website or phone the Infoline on 13 13 94 from 8 am to 6 pm weekdays for further information and for advice.

Source: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/2012/09/pages/20120927-statement-on-employee-medical-conferences.aspx



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7 Responses to “Employers incl RTW Coordinators are not allowed to attend doctors appointments”

  1. This is a great story & a very important point for all injured & newly injured workers to know.

    I remember a story of a worker who had only been off work for 1 week & was eager to return to work after a very serious injury. The GP had advised to give it 28 days to help the injury settle, but the RTW coordinator from the WC Agency asked to attend with the injured employee at the GP 4 days later. The employee agreed to the appointment, & then sat there in shock as the GP agreed to amend the certificate so that the worker could return to work in 3 days! The worker had been at work on reduced hours for a few months with the injury getting increasingly worse, hence why it was suggested to have complete rest of injury for 28 days.

    The injured worker returned to the GP 2 days later to ask the GP why they had gone back on the medical advice they had told the employee – that they needed 28 days to rest the injury – & that the injury had not improved & didnt believe they would be fit for duties the next day. The GP said he didnt agree & the employee had no choice other than to return to work the next day. Obviously there was a change of GP, but the story did get so much worse for this injured employee.

    If only this employee had known about this site!

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  2. It is bad enough that bosses, and RTW Coordinators will routinely call GPs, even surgeons, or write them letters to ask them about injured workers’ medical conditions – remember that they’re not allowed to go on a fishing expedition and that if they ask a question, that question needs to be totally justifiable.

    See our article: Medical assessments and bosses – injured workers rights

    Extract from the article:

    ….For example, and in most cases an employee/injured worker may already have given their employer/boss adequate information about their impairment/injury or illness. (i.e. medical certificate outlining diagnosis, restrictions, etc; letter supporting ergonomic aides, again explaining the condition/injury etc).

    In addition, the particular questions that an employer wants to ask a medical practitioner MUST be justifiable (that is reasonable)

    Injured workers should take great care to ensure that their employers only ask such questions of treating doctors (GP, surgeon etc) or independent doctors as are reasonable in the circumstances.

    It is really unreasonable for an employer to go on a “fishing expedition” by asking unnecessarily broad questions of medical practitioners, such as asking for a complete medical history. For example, they ask for “everything” incl your psychiatric examination report while they only need to know if you can lift 1 bag of carrots at work….

     

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    workcovervictim3 April 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm
    • I heard of a injured workers mistake of letting their Rte coordinator come to a doctors appointment. The Rte coordinator bullied the doctor into sending the injured worker back to work, and of course it failed because of their condition. This person would not get off the injured workers back about returning to work. The injured worker rang their lawyer and got them to speak to the Rte coordinator “guess what never heard from the Rte coordinator again”. The amount of stress this caused to the injured worker was phenomenal. I suppose there’s one lesson to be learnt, don’t sign or agree to anything that the employer or Rte coordinators throw at you until you have spoken to a lawyer.

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      DiagnosisWrong May 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm
      • DWrong – that is my story you stole! LOL Sorry, we have to have a laugh where we can in the cold world of pain & WC crap. My point is more about the fact that this is their normal behavior to get to the injured worker when they are at their weakest & doesnt have the knowledge to know what their rights are. That is why I feel this site is so important & why ‘they’ keep trying to pull it down. I know that for the majority of injured workers, all we are thinking of is healing from the injury- where as the WC agent’s first & every thought is how to screw the injured worker out of their rights.

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  3. Any professional breaching confidentiality can be ethically challenged by their professional standards. If the out come is serious then negligence can be considered. There’s more that one way to skin a cat.

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  4. Q.  How about case conference ?

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  5. Case conferences are the ideal approach. Not if your looking for information on how to get rid of an injured employee. Who wants to hear the facts directly from the treating Drs? Document the facts from the Drs and act on them accordingly when there’s another agenda? Who wants witnesses including the injured worker to verify Drs orders? If orders are not being followed in the workplace, why should the employer and casemanager ( insurer) leave themselves open to accountability? It’s is easier to attempt to manipulate and control the Dr and worker. It might be too risky to hold the case conference and see the bigger picture from all treating professionals. It’s a free for all on how ethical information gathering is allowed in Workcover.

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