Obtaining Information from Health Care Practitioners in Cases of Employee Illness or Injury
Disability Management in the Federal Public Service
This guide is for employees of the federal public service and their managers and / or supervisors or other human resources (HR) professionals with responsibility for disability management. It outlines the steps involved in obtaining for the employer the necessary information from treating physicians or other health care practitioner to support ill / injured employees, and the appropriate forms to use for this purpose. Other health care practitioners include certified and provincially regulated health care providers such as nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and chiropractors.
In administering leave, and in assisting employees to remain at, or return to work, it is essential to keep the lines of communication open. Employees are encouraged to review the Disability Management: Employee Wellness Resource for more information on what to expect if they are injured or ill. Managers and HR professionals are encouraged to review Handling Disability Management Cases – the Tool.
Two types offorms are addressed in this guide:
- Medical Absence Form: to confirm that an employee's absence is due to illness or injury.
- Functional Abilities Form: to enable an employer to accommodate an ill or injured employee to remain at, or if absence is unavoidable, to return to work as soon as they are safely able to do so.
Both forms are designed to respect the employee's privacy, by ensuring that their purpose is clear, and that the information requested is strictly limited to what the employer will need to support an ill or injured employee to recover and stay at, or return to work in a safe manner. They have been developed with Canadian Medical Association following policies in mind: The Physician's Role in Helping Patients Return to Work After an Illness or Injury (update 2013); Third-party Forms: The Physician's Role (update 2010); Short-Term Illness Certificate (PDF Document – 54 KB) (update 2011).
Disability management, which reflects the duty to accommodate, is a shared responsibility. In order for an employer to be able to accommodate an employee, they will need to know:
- The employee's functional abilities, limitations or restrictions vis-à-vis the physical and cognitive demands of their work.
- The employee's prognosis, i.e. whether any restrictions or limitations identified are considered temporary or permanent.
- Whether the employee is taking medication which may affect their ability to safely carry out their work. (This does not require the health care practitioner to identify the specific medication prescribed).
It is important to note that an employer is not entitled to know:
- The employee's diagnosis
- Details of the employee's treatment, including details of any medication prescribed.
Medical Absence Form
Use the Medical Absence Form if you are seeking to confirm that an absence is required due to illness or injury. Under existing collective agreements, the Directive on Terms and Conditions of Employment for Certain Excluded or Unrepresented Employees, and the Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements, the employer is entitled to request confirmation that an employee granted sick leave (with or without pay) is ill or injured.
In addition to providing this confirmation, the Medical Absence Form will let the employer know if the employee needs to be seen again, before they are able to return to work, and when that follow-up appointment will take place.
Confirmation of absence due to illness or injury may be requested following one day's absence, an absence of several days in a row, or frequent absences over a period of time. Keeping the lines of communication open during an employee's absence will help a manager to determine whether a Medical Absence Form is required.
Process for Completing the Medical Absence Form
For the purposes of confirming that absence from work is due to illness or injury, in the documents accompanying this Guide you will find:
- Medical Absence Form, to be completed and signed by the treating physician
- Letter to the Treating Physician on the Medical Absence Form, to be completed and signed by the manager / supervisor or authorized HR professional.
The Medical Absence Form is a very brief form that can be completed by the treating physician during a single visit.
Steps to use this form
The manager / supervisor will:
- Contact the absent employee to inform him / her that a completed Medical Absence Form is required.
- Complete and sign the Letter to the Treating Physician.
- Make arrangements with the employee for providing him / her with a blank form and accompanying letter, to be completed and returned within an agreed timeframe;
The employee will then:
- Take both the letter and the form to the treating physician.
- Make a copy of the completed Medical Absence Form for his / her records
- Return the completed Medical Absence Form to their manager / supervisor within the period agreed to with their manager.
The completion of the Medical Absence Form is an uninsured medical service. As the language of existing collective agreements does not provide for reimbursement, the employee will be responsible for any fees associated with the completion of this form.
Functional Abilities Form
Use the Functional Abilities Form to identify an employee's functional abilities, and whether they have any limitations or restrictions that will need to be accommodated, in order to help them remain at, or return to work.
For example, the completion of a Functional Abilities Form may be requested if:
- the employee has provided a Medical Absence Form that indicates that they require follow-up before returning to work;
- the employer is seeking to identify options for allowing the employee to remain at, or return to work following an absence due to illness or injury;
- after developing a return to work plan, the employee is having difficulties completing their tasks; or
- the employee experiences a set-back, or recurrence of their illness or injury, and further or more up to date functional abilities information is required to ensure the safety of the employee.
Process for Completing the Functional Abilities Form
For the purposes of obtaining functional abilities information, in the documents accompanying this Guide you will find:
- Functional Abilities Form, with sections to be completed by the manager / supervisor, and treating physician or health care practitioner
- Letter to the Treating Physician on the Functional Abilities Form, to be completed and signed by the manager / supervisor or authorized HR professional
- Employee Consent Form, to be completed by the employee
Steps to use this form
The manager / supervisor or authorized HR professional will:
- Contact the employee to explain the steps in obtaining functional abilities information and why this information is required.
- Obtain from the employee the name and address of his / her treating physician or health care practitioner if this is not already on record.
- Complete Section A of the Functional Abilities Form
- Complete Section B of the form, based on his or her knowledge of the employee's work duties. Please note that this section is designed to provide a description of the employee's work environment, and the day to day physical and cognitive capacities required to perform the employee's duties. It should not be interpreted as a "work description" for the employee's position.
- Sign Section B of the Functional Abilities Form
- Prepare and sign the Letter to the treating physician or health care practitioner. (If the treating physician's or health care practitioner's contact information is not available, prepare a generic letter.)
- Provide to the employee:
- The Functional Abilities Form, with Section B completed and signed by the manager / supervisor;
- Letter to the treating physician or health care practitioner;
- Consent Form (to be signed by the employee); and
to be returned within an agreed timeframe.
The employee must:
- Review and sign the Consent Form.
- Take the, Functional Abilities Form, Letter to the treating physician or health care practitionerand Consent Form, to his or her treating physician or health care practitioner, who will then complete Sections C and D of the Functional Abilities Form.
- Make a copy of the completed Functional Abilities Form for his or her records.
- Return the completed Functional Abilities Form to his or her manager / supervisor or authorized HR professional within the period agreed to with his or her manager or authorized HR professional.
The completion of the Functional Abilities Form is an uninsured medical service. Best practices in disability management, and reference to the CMA Policy Third-party Forms: the Physician's Role, suggest that departments should give consideration to reimbursing employees for fees associated with the completion of the Functional Abilities Form.
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