Labour Federation says new provincial sick note regulations are an improvement, but more needed

June 30, 2023

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour commends the implementation of new sick note requirements to reduce the administrative burden on doctors and enhance their ability to focus on providing quality patient care. Effective July 1, the legislation marks a positive step towards streamlining the sick note process. However, the Federation wants employers, not workers to cover the costs of obtaining sick notes.

Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh says it is the employer who requires verification of an employee’s illness, so the cost should be borne by them.

“In our view, employers hold a fundamental duty to establish a supportive and healthy work environment, including effectively managing employee absences due to illness or injury.

“By relieving workers of the financial burden of obtaining sick notes, we foster a culture of workplace wellness and encourage employees to prioritize rest and seek appropriate medical attention when necessary which benefits workers and the overall productivity and well-being of the workforce,” says Cavanagh.

Under the new regulations, employers can request a sick note only if an employee is absent for more than five consecutive working days or has had two absences of five or fewer working days within the previous 12 months. Recognizing that workers already face financial challenges while dealing with illness or injury, expecting them to cover the cost of sick notes is just another financial strain. 

The Federation of Labour acknowledges the positive aspects of the new sick note requirements, including reducing administrative burdens on doctors and delegating sick note provision to various healthcare professionals. The expanded list of healthcare providers, such as nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, and social workers, who can issue sick notes when providing care is a welcome change. However, the issue of cost allocation for sick notes remains unaddressed, and the Federation asserts that workers should not bear this responsibility.

Furthermore, imposing the cost of sick notes on workers may discourage them from seeking essential medical attention when they are unwell. Concerns about the financial implications of obtaining a sick note may lead workers to continue working while sick, potentially compromising their own health and the health of their colleagues and customers.

“We are urging Nova Scotia policymakers to consider the perspectives and needs of workers in the ongoing development and implementation of sick note regulations. It is crucial to ensure that the burden of sick note expenses does not hinder workers’ access to medical care and that employers take proactive measures to foster a supportive and healthy work environment,” says Cavanagh.

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