Federally-regulated employees are no longer required to present a doctor's note in order to take unpaid sick days, according to a new notice from the Ministry of Labour, Blacklocks Reporter reports.
Labour Minister Filomena Tassi did not comment herself on the policy change released Wednesday, but she did acknowledge that employers were unhappy with and protested the change in her notice.
“Employer representatives expressed strong opposition, arguing that medical certificates help to manage absenteeism and that this is an important management right the government should not waive,” the notice reads.
The suspension, however, is temporary, extending until September 25, 2021.
Under the new regulations, employees would only need to provide a written declaration promising that they are, in fact, sick. The new regulation also applies to those receiving the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which allows employees to provide only a written declaration to receive $1,000 from the government, even if they do not have COVID-19.
The notice justifies this new policy by stating that “[obtaining] medical certificates can put strain on the health care system by resulting in non-urgent visits to doctors and other health care practitioners for the sole purpose of obtaining a medical certificate.”
The report noted the potential harm this policy change could bring to employers, explaining "it is reasonable to expect that suspending the employer’s ability to [demand doctor's notes] could result in some employees taking more or longer medical leaves.” They acknowledged that this could provide added costs to employers, who must offer overtime pay to other employees in order to cover lost work. According to the report, this averages $600 per week for an employer.
Under normal winter circumstances, the absentee rate from the workforce in Canada is roughly 8 percent according to federal estimates. Due to the pandemic, the government suggests that the rate could more than triple to 25 percent.
Speaking on August 20th in response to a different set of COVID-19-related regulations affecting sick days, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters that the government does not believe that Canadians would abuse the system, declaring “we believe Canadians are honest and they want to work.”