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Stop asking employees for sick notes, OMA head urges

If your boss makes you go to the doctor for a sick note – when you would be better off in bed – you may want to bring this physician-approved recommendation to work: Sick notes just make everyone more sick.

In a written statement posted online, the president of the Ontario Medical Association, Dr. Scott Wooder, urged employees with the flu to stay home – and their employers not to ask them for sick notes that require a visit to a doctor's office. That's a costly practice, Wooder pointed out, since it fills up appointment times unnecessarily and brings sick people into a waiting room, where they can infect other patients waiting to see the doctor.

What's more, as Wooder tweeted, "Ontario's health system does not have the resources to act as industry's Truant Officer."

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In the statement, Wooder writes: "Employers should encourage workers to stay home when sick – not require sick notes which has a discouraging effect and forces patients into the doctor's office …"

Many employers already required sick notes only when a worker's absence extends for several days. But sick notes have been controversial with medical staff: This past fall, a Saint Mary's University nurse decided to stop writing them after noting an uptick in students reporting flu symptoms around mid-term time. Rather than requiring notes, she argued, sick students should be responsible for making up their exams – whether they had a note or not.

"Take me, and the clinic and the doctors out of the whole equation, and just have the students responsible for going to their exams or if they miss them because they're sick,'" Jane Collins was quoted as saying by the CBC.

Of course, as Wooder pointed out in his statement, among the best ways to avoid needing a sick note in the first place are getting a flu shot and washing your hands.

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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