Managing ill and injured employees can become incredibly complex, so it's important for employers to remember they have a clear right to seek medical information to help them in the process, according to a workplace lawyer.
Case law is predicated on the very simple assumption that an employer may ask questions where it relates to an employee's capacity to perform the inherent requirements of their role, says Kingston Reid partner Christa Lenard in an HR Daily Premium webcast.
"That is always the angle and the reason or the basis for which you should be seeking to ask questions," Lenard says.
One prime example of a case upholding this right is from 2014, involving a Qantas employee.
Critically, the Federal Court set out that an employer has the right to enquire and issue directions to an employee to obtain further information in circumstances where very little detail is provided on incapacity certificates.
"Now it's settled that where there is a justified reason to understand or obtain further medical information, then the employer can direct the employee to provide it with the information if it's not voluntarily known."
The material provided by an employee can often be minimal, not forthcoming or inconsistent with the employer's observations, Lenard says.
In this excerpt from the webcast, she details how employers can go about lawfully obtaining the information they need about an employee's work capacity.
In the full webcast, Lenard shares a list of what questions can be asked and of whom, and also clarifies employers' obligations and best practices around managing: work- and non-work-related injuries; psychological conditions; return-to-work issues; and termination considerations (upgrade here for access if you're not a premium member).