Don't ask workers for doctor's note: Ontario physicians

With an 'unprecedented' flu season ahead, doctors are urging employers not to require doctor's notes and asking employees not to take advantage of the situation
||Last Updated: 11/03/2009

Workers who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should be encouraged to stay home from work, and employers shouldn’t be asking them for a doctor’s note to explain the absence, according to the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

In advance of what the OMA said is “shaping up to be an unprecedented flu season,” it put out a statement asking employers to trust their workers and urging employees not to take advantage of this year’s flu situation as an opportunity to simply take a day off.

“In order to help reduce the transmission of H1N1 and other illnesses, Ontario’s doctors believe it is wise for patients to stay home when they have flu-like symptoms,” said Suzanne Strasberg, president of the OMA. “Employers need to recognize that by requiring a sick note, they are encouraging those who are experiencing their worst symptoms and are most infectious to go out, when they should just be home in bed.”

If a patient has mild flu-like symptoms and no pre-existing illnesses of concern, the most important thing that can be done to prevent others from being infected is to stay home, the OMA said. Going to the doctor’s office just to get a note or going to work puts many others at risk.

But the OMA stressed that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be seeing their doctors if necessary. While many patients with H1N1 or the season flu will be able to recover under their own care and without needing medical treatment, it’s important that a patient see a doctor if symptoms worsen of if they have a chronic and/or pre-existing health condition or are in a high-risk population group.

“Ontario’s doctors know that there will be added pressures and increased work load this flu season but we are ready to care for and treat our patients,” Strasberg said. “It’s important for everyone to do as much as possible to help prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu and reduce the strain on the health care system. It’s equally important that we continue to focus on patients who need care, rather than those who just need a note.”

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