Currently, under the Holidays Act 2003, an employer may require an employee, at the employee's expense, to provide proof of illness or injury where the employee's illness/injury results in absence from work for three or more consecutive calendar days.
The Act also allows an employer to require proof for a period of less than three consecutive days, but at the employer's expense.
The ability to make such requests of an employee is a useful tool to help an employer manage their employees' absences from work. However, what will catch a lot of employers (and possibly employees) off guard is a subtle change to the Holidays Act that will come into force from 31 January 2018 when the Holidays Amendment Act (No2) 2016 comes into effect.
This little known amendment, will allow employees to obtain proof of illness from a range of health practitioners, not just doctors. The amendment effectively replaces the words "medical practitioner" with "health practitioner" into the Holidays Act 2003.
To understand who a "health practitioner" is, you need to refer to the definition in Section 5 of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. Under this Act a "health practitioners" is defined as a person who is, or is deemed to be, registered with an authority as a practitioner of a particular health profession.
This means that practitioners registered with the following authorities will be able to provide a certificate for the purposes of sick leave:
Medical Sciences Council of NZ
Medical Radiation Technologists Board
Occupational Therapy Board
Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board
All illness or injury does not automatically mean, in all cases, that an employee is unable to perform their duties or even alternative or restricted duties.
With the current regime requiring a certificate from a medical practitioner, employers have been able to rely on the issuing of medical certificates following the NZ Medical Council's guidelines so that employees do not simply provide a "not fit for work" certificate without providing sufficient information about what about the employee's illness or injury impacts on their ability to perform either their normal duties or to be considered for either suitable alternate duties or restricted duties.
Employers may struggle to get such information from this new range of health practitioners. McKone Consultancy recommends that employers still request sufficient relevant information from health practitioners to enable decisions on how to support ill or injured employees.
If your employment agreements currently state that the employee must provide a certificate from a medical practitioner (i.e. doctor) then you may still be able to rely on that provision to require your employees to provide a medical certificate from their doctor. If your employment agreement is silent on who they get their certificate from, then from 31 January 2018 you will have to accept certificates from this broader range of health practitioners, provided they are, or are deemed to be, registered with their appropriate authority.
If you require assistance dealing with illness or injury issues, give McKone Consultancy a call today for a free no-obligation chat on 027 698 2123 (NZ only) or email Tony.