Dr. Kathleen Moncrieff is a family physician who spends her time off sewing masks for herself and her colleagues, as there is a global shortage. They aren't as good the commercially made masks, she admits, but they are better than nothing. She's doing everything she can to help keep her community safe and healthy--and she has some sage advice for employers: Stop requiring sick employees to get doctor's notes.
At work, Moncrieff--along with legions of medical personnel--is overwhelmed with patients. Remember, it's not just Coronavirus patients out there. People still get bladder infections, cut themselves trying to make avocado toast, and have cancer. So, this pandemic is on top of her regular workload. She shared her feelings in a private business group, where we're both members. She granted me permission to share her request for all employers:
I would like to ask a favor of any employers/HR people here. Please stop making your employees get sick notes for this. We don't have time for it. We are all doing extra work trying to keep people safe and it's just too much. And frankly any time any of my patients needed a note for work this week I literally just asked them what dates they wanted no questions asked. So it's not going to somehow make them only get notes for "legitimate" reasons because I don't even have time to get into the reasons.
Also, we are trying to do virtual visits as much as possible and if I have a situation where a patient has no way to get the note electronically or my original in pen signature is required on a form, they have to come in and potentially expose the vulnerable sick non-Covid patients I still have to examine in person to the virus. And they risk picking up the virus at my clinic and exposing themselves and their loved ones. This are extraordinary times. Please be flexible so I have more time to take care of people who need medical care.
So, as Moncrieff suggests, stop asking for doctor's notes.
Yes, there are employees out there who will take advantage of you and lie about being sick. I guarantee you these employees demonstrate bad behavior in other areas of their lives. Discipline them for that behavior. But now is not the time to dig in on your doctor's note policy.
Doctor's notes are generally a bad idea anyway. Most illnesses pass without the need to see a physician. Most people can tell when they are sick enough to stay home but not sick enough to need medical treatment. Requiring doctor's notes just costs the employee money, overburden's doctors, and doesn't make anyone healthier.
Follow Moncrieff's advice and stop requiring sick notes from your employees--especially during this pandemic.