Management at Queensland’s Underwood Parcel Facility (UPF) were recently caught out attempting to unilaterally change the goalposts (and the many case-law examples) on medical certification following an absence.
They recently held briefings with staff to advise members of a blanket ban on the use of back-dated medical certificates to certify the availing of sick leave entitlements following an injury or illness.
“They had rocks in their head.” Acting Queensland Branch Secretary Cameron Bird said.
There are many examples, documented to the extent of decisions by the Fair Work Commission and its predecessor, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, dealing with matters where workers have had no choice but to present a back-dated medical certificate to authorise the availing of sick leave entitlements.
Mr Bird explained how he found it “astonishing” that this would be tried on at UPF, given this workplace was home to the majority of staff who fit the criteria like a glove in terms of workers who would be entitled to availing of sick leave certified by a back-dated medical certificate.
“Let’s take our 7pm shift at UPF, for example,
“It would be reasonable to expect that many of our members with a 7pm shift commencement time would not rise from their rest until 6pm.
“After getting out of bed, discovering their symptoms of illness and notifying their workplace of their absence, it would be borderline-madness to expect that these workers would have access to an after-hours, or even a 24-hour, GP at their disposal to certify their runny nose and tickly throat.”
In circumstances like this, it would be more than reasonable to expect that the likelihood of being able to find a GP service open at that time of the evening would be slim at best, and that the first available opportunity for that worker to present themselves at a GP for certification would most likely be the next morning.
“Under such an interpretation by management, our members in the bush would be left hopeless at ever availing of their sick leave entitlements,” Mr Bird continued.
“I’d like to see management try to get in to see a GP on the first, second, third, fourth or even fifth day of an injury or illness in regional towns with only one part-time GP — regardless of what time of the day it was.”
Thankfully, following state-level representations to HR, sanity prevailed. It was accepted that a blanket ban was inappropriate and that the acceptance of back-dated medical certifications would be considered on its merits on a case-by-case basis — as it has been in Australia Post all along.
If you’ve experienced a similar situation in your workplace, contact your state Branch Official immediately for assistance.