Rights regarding doctor’s appointments

Bosses are increasingly using force or coercion so that they can attend doctor’s appointments with sick or injured employees.

In some cases, employers are going so far as to try to have employee’s medical certificates altered to get employees back to work sooner.

This trend has been growing over many years and is not helped by employees letting them get away with it.

“The treatment of ill or injured workers is a growing problem. Employers/insurers and employer representatives are increasingly attending actual medical appointments with injured workers,” said ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick recently.

“We’ve also had reports of doctors being pressured to change medical certificates and return-to-work plans,” Mr Borowick said.

Using coercion instead of consultation has become common practise among many companies dealing with work claims.

Workplace injuries

If you become ill or injured at, or through, your workplace you must report it as soon as practicable.

This becomes a Workers’ Compensation Claim if the injured or ill worker precedes with a claim, usually based on the seriousness of the injury. Ensure you (or a delegate or family member) contact the Newcastle SDA office as soon as possible.

You are within your rights to see your doctor or specialist at any time, but as it is a workplace injury/illness, the employer has the ‘right’ to send you to a medical professional of their choice. This is usually through a contract between the employer and a medical practitioner or the employer’s insurer.

It is also within your rights to continue seeing your own doctor or specialist.

SDA will send you to our workers’ compensation specialist lawyers if a claim is being lodged. They will offer professional advice and support in tandem with your union throughout the claim process.

Injuries outside of work

If you become ill or injured outside of work you can seek treatment by your doctor as required.

This is where it can become confusing for employees. The employer may appear to have your best interests at heart by inviting themselves to the medical appointment or worst still, making you attend an appointment at the company’s chosen medical practice. They cannot do this.

Some employees will not mind going to the company’s preferred medico, however it is the employee’s choice and the employer cannot make you.

Likewise, the employer cannot ask or demand your medical records without your consent. Contact the Newcastle SDA office if you are under any pressure from your employer to do something you suspect is not right.

Further, you should always make sure your doctor has you – not your employer - as their priority.

Many ‘caring’ employers will be prepared to go to any lengths to get you back to work to ensure company records don’t record a lost timed injury/illness. This may, and can, occur under certain aspects of Workers’ Compensation, but not an out-of-workplace injury/illness.

Having said that, where an employer understands paid leave is exhausted and allows the employee to return to work under suitable/light duties, this is obviously better than the alternative, which is having no income. However, some employers will continue to coerce or bully their workers to do what they want.

Remember, we’re here to help. If you have an issue in your workplace contact the Newcastle SDA office on 1300 SDA HELP (1300 732 4357) for confidential advice, information and support.


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