Sick notes still required as PCs vote down change to P.E.I.’s Employment Standards Act

The governing Progressive Conservatives voted down a bill Wednesday that would have eliminated the requirement for doctor’s notes for sick employees in P.E.I.The bill was brought forward by the Green Party, which invited Dr. Kay Dingwell to the legislature to help make its case.Dingwell, who works in the emergency department at Prince County Hospital in Summerside, said sick notes serve little purpose.She said doctors aren’t confirming people have colds or other minor illnesses, but the people coming in to get doctor’s notes are potentially spreading those illnesses to other vulnerable patients.”If the patient is coming and telling me they’re sick, I believe them,” Dingwell said. “They’re giving me the same information they would give their employer. I am not adding anything to that. All this adds is a barrier to the patient taking time off.”Premier Dennis King argued there has to be some rules in place to keep workers accountable so they don’t abuse sick leave privileges.”You have to recognize, whether you want to personally admit it or not, that there are people out there who will take full abuse of this system, particularly if they’re being paid,” King said. “It’s not out of the realm of normality that we would ask the question, how would we police this and … make sure that people are going to work?”An ER doctor urged MLAs to kill sick notes. They just voted to keep themA bill that would have eliminated the requirement for doctor’s notes for sick employees was voted down by PC MLAs Wednesday, after P.E.I. ER doctor Kay Dingwell made her position clear: sick notes have no purpose and take up the time of medical staff.While the Employment Standards Act allows employers to ask workers for a sick note after three consecutive days of illness, it’s up to the individual employer to decide whether it implements such a policy. According to the provincial law, “The employer may require the employee to provide the employer with a certificate signed by a medical practitioner certifying that the employee is or was unable to work due to illness or injury.”The Greens argued changing the Employment Standards Act would be a small step toward easing overburdened frontline health-care workers’ administrative tasks. For years, health-care professionals, including the Canadian Medical Association, have been calling for the elimination of sick notes.Recommendations for P.E.I.In Nova Scotia, employees no longer need to provide a sick note in many cases.And there are recommendations from last fall’s employment standards review for P.E.I. that would increase the number of sick days without needing a note from a doctor from three to four.It also suggested the notes don’t need to come from a doctor — they could be written by a nurse or a pharmacist. Government has not yet implemented those recommendations in legislation.

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