Medical Council: HR isn’t the big, bad wolf!


One of the issues the Association has heard again and again from HR professionals is how hard it is to deal with medical certificates that just say ‘X must be off work for two weeks’.

The reason these vague certificates are in issue for many HR people is that they don’t give enough information to know if there is something the employer can do to help the employee e.g. reduced duties, different hours, time off for rehabilitation.

They also don’t indicate whether the employee is likely to be able to return or may need further time off which makes it hard for workforce planning.

HR want to make sure there are no workplace issues that could impact employees. Without further information this is very hard to do.

This is not about needing to know personal information about the employee or their illness but to know if there is anything the employer can do to help.

The Association has raised this with the Medical Council and asked whether GP’s could be provided with more education on what HR, managers and businesses would find useful, namely information about the following:

  • What parts of the employees job are they not able to do?
  • Are there any light duties or other duties that could be completed?
  • Are there other factors which the employer could explore fixing (e.g. if the employee has raised excessive workload, or a personality clash)?
  • What type of issue the employee is claiming this is (because if they are claiming they are suffering from stress, this is a hazard under the H&S at Work Act and the employee has a duty to raise this with their employer first).
  • Whether there could be a partial return to work.
  • How the employer will know they are safe to return after this time.

After raising this approach with the Medical Council, they have advised that they do not feel any further education of GP’s is needed and that HR people will need to put through a complaint when doctors don’t provide more information.

So the Association has developed several free resources for Professional Associates to use for this purpose. The resources are:

  • Letter to GP’s requesting more medical information after medical consent is gained
  • Letter of complaint to the Medical Council for failure to issue correct medical certificates
  • Statement on medical certificates from the Medical Council
  • Article about misleading medical certificates

If you do receive a Medical Certificate for the ‘2 weeks off’ then please do use the form to complain to the Medical Council, and perhaps they will then look at educating GP’s.

Because HR isn’t the big bad wolf.

HR actually wants to fix any issues making the workplace unsafe and do what’s needed to help the employee return to work.

For more about the free resources and APPNZ just visit


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