No more sick notes? Why the Ford government wants to eliminate doctors notes for illness

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In an effort to free up family physicians to focus on patient care, the Ford government wants to move to an attestation-based system for employers who require a doctor’s note when an employee is feeling ill.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the government has been examining ways to cut down on the amount of administrative work family physicians are required to do, such as eliminating fax machines and expanding digital referral and consultation forms.

On Wednesday, Jones said the Ministry of Health is targeting sick notes by prohibiting employers from requiring a sick note for “job-protected sick leave.”

Instead, Jones said, the province is looking to replace sick notes with attestations “that maintain accountability as employees request time off when they’re sick.”

Currently, Ontario’s Employment Standards Act allows employers to ask for a medical note from a doctor, nurse practitioner or psychologist when an employee is taking a sick day.

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The Minister of Labour will table legislation to amend Ontario’s labour laws to prohibit employers from asking for a sick note for the three days of provincially mandated sick leave employees currently receive.

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Instead, the ministry is working on a range of tools employers could use, such as a form the employee could sign to attest to their illness, or a receipt for over-the-counter medication.

Ontario NDP health critic France Gélinas said she was in favour of scrapping sick notes but called on the province to increase the number of sick days above three per year.

“Sick notes have to go the way of the dinosaur — just ban them, they serve no purpose,” she said.

“Let’s get rid of sick notes, they take up a lot of time from health care providers.”

Ontario Liberal MPP Adil Shamji, who also works as a doctor, said sick notes are often the sole reason people go to see a family doctor, putting pressure on the system.

“I think it’s long been known that many employees are going to their family doctor simply for a letter to allow them to stay home from work,” he said.

“It is a source of added administrative burden for doctors and it blocks appointments.”

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Unnecessary administrative work, the Ontario Medical Association said, takes up roughly 19 hours per week of a physician’s time slowing down the number of patients that can be seen on any given day.

“We estimate that four of these hours alone are spent on sick notes and government forms that doctors are asked to fill out every single day,” said OMA president Andrew Park

Park said the OMA would like to see sick notes “eliminated completely” which he calls practical because “physicians cannot diagnose illness after the fact.”

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