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Can a medical certificate be rejected?

April 7, 2022

Full disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Should you be in a sticky situation, you should always seek out advice from a legal professional.


The potential for rejection is usually not any cause for concern, as most employers understand the importance of being supportive when it comes to medical certificates.

But there may be certain situations where you, or your employer, may be curious about whether a medical certificate can or even should be challenged and whether this means the medical certificate can be rejected.

We’ve outlined all you need to know about this below.

What does the law say about medical certificates?

Getting a medical certificate for work when you are sick is important to do as an employee for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Proving to your employer you were unfit for work
  2. Building / maintaining trust between yourself and your employer
  3. Enabling your employer to pay you for any paid leave taken

When provided for sick leave, the function of medical certificates is to give employees an official document, signed by a suitably Registered Health Practitioner, which can be provided to employers. This official document clears the employee from work for one or multiple days.

Which law regulates medical certificates in Australia?

Certificates or sick leave notes for medical conditions are regulated by the Fair Work Act (2009). This is a really important piece of legislation that:

  1. Provides employees with a lot of workplace protections, while
  2. Also providing employers with valuable guidance on employee related decisions in the workplace

It also outlines how as an employee, you’re entitled to a set number of personal and career’s leave days every year, which includes sick leave. This can not only be used for when you as an employee are sick, but for if a family member is ill and you need to take care of them at home or organise / drive them to appointments — or similar.

What does the law say about medical certificates for sick leave?

The Fair Work Act (2009) states a few important elements that are important to know from both parties involved. This includes requiring ‘evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person’ that time was taken off work for a legitimate reason.

This is created to ensure employees cannot easily abuse the sick days they are entitled to, and only miss work when they are actually too ill to perform their job. Alternatively, if there’s a risk that they will spread the illness to their coworkers (as we’ve all become too familiar with through COVID) this also helps as it is often a concern for businesses.

An employer can technically set out their own rules for how sick leave is handled, so long as:

  1. It’s consistent
  2. It isn’t arbitrary or confusing, such that employees become unsure about what their entitlements and obligations are.

An employer might determine that medical certificates for work are only required when sick leave is taken multiple days in a row, or right before a public holiday weekend when people might be trying to create their own long weekend (sneaky..). Additionally, if an employee refuses to provide the evidence requested by their employer, they are usually not entitled to pay for the period they were away from work.

A valid medical certificate also protects employees from unfair rejections by employers who might think their employee is ‘faking it’. This is because Under the Fair Work Act (2009), medical certificates need to be accepted at face value. In other words, these medical certificates are the evidence needed to show an employee was medically unable to work that day and that they must be paid as per normal.

This is often because valid medical certificates can only be provided by Registered Health Practitioners after a consultation (digital or in-person) who are registered with the relevant health agency, such as the Medical Board of Australia.

Importantly, there’s also no means or mechanism for your employer to call your doctor and ask questions about the illness or injury due to confidentiality.

Can an Employer refuse a doctor’s note?

Based on the Fair Work Act (2009), employers need to accept medical certificates at face value and shouldn’t reach out the employee’s doctor except to clarify points, for example around whether it’s safe for the employee to return to work.

However, the Australian Fair Work Commission has stated that employers can reject medical certificates if they’re too vague to allow the proper discharge of legal obligations. What this means is if an employer feels they are in a concerning position legally by not rejecting a medical certificate, then they may feel the need to do so to cover themselves legally. This is a grey area though, and all employers should seek legal advice before rejecting to avoid any workplace (and legal) backlash.

Employers should also communicate clearly if such a process is underway, and the reasons for this taking place.


Ultimately, it’s important for employers to accept medical certificates on face value, but there are instances where rejection may apply as long as legal advice has been sought and the process is clearly communicated with an employee.

Usually, however, if everything is above board and a medical certificate has been fairly requested and has been fairly provided, it should not be any cause for concern for either party.

And most common sick leave problems are able to be sorted by a Partner Doctor through MinuteHealth, such as a common cold, the flu, period pains, migraines, gastro — just to name a small few.

Being an Aussie owned & run company, MinuteHealth understands the importance of helping our fellow Aussies out in times of need.

We also understand what it’s like to be in the queue at a doctor’s office just to get a note to confirm things you already knew about your health, just so you can get paid on what should be your day off. Being able to get medical certificates online helps Australians get the rest they need when they need it so they can get back on their feet and back to contributing in no time.

If you need an online medical certificate, it’s a simple process to get one through MinuteHealth:

📱 Head here

📝 Fill in a short form — it asks for key details about your medical issue

👨‍⚕️ Consult with your own Partner Doctor — they’ll take the medical information you provide and review within 24-hours

📥 Get your medical certificate to your inbox — you’ll receive an SMS and an e-mail with your medical certificate ready to download

It’s important to note that the independent Partner Doctor will read your health notes and make an informed decision on whether to provide you with a medical certificate or not. The Health Practitioner does not work for us, and we’ve created MinuteHealth to facilitate a convenient, ongoing connection with them.