Don’t ask workers for sick notes during flu season: Doctors

OMA says employees should be encouraged to stay home, says it's not too late to get flu shot

With the flu season taking a toll across the country, doctors are urging employers not to require doctor’s notes for employees who call in sick with flu-like symptoms.

“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 when they are sick, which only encourages the spread of germs to those in the waiting room, who in some cases are more vulnerable,” said Scott Wooder, president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA).

Going to work while sick is not only bad for the ill employee, but it’s “potentially worse for your colleagues,” said Wooder.

“Think about those around you, and please don’t take the flu to work,” he said.

In comments he made to the Toronto Star, Wooder went a step further and questioned the use of doctor's notes entirely by employers. He said he gets about two requests every day from patients looking for a note to take to their employer. Assuming every doctor is facing similar requests, that could amount to "tens of thousands" of visits to doctors.

"(These visits) are expensive, they're unnecessary and they put other people at risk," he told The Star. "We don't have the resources in the health care system to police absenteeism for employers."

Flu ‘highly contagious’

The flu is highly contagious, the OMA said.

Most cold and flu viruses are spread because people touch surfaces and then touch their faces, other objects and other people.

Following a few basic guidelines such as coughing and sneezing into an elbow, using hand sanitizer, and washing hands frequently will help prevent the flu. These are important tips, but getting the flu shot is still the best defence against the flu, according to the OMA.

And it’s still not too late to get vaccinated, said Wooder.

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