How to deal with fraudulent medical certificates
If you suspect one of your employees has delivered a false sick notice or, worse, a series of fraudulent sick notices, you need to know how to deal with this situation. Recently I went to a seminar led by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH) where speakers Mohsina Chenia and Michael Yeates of CDH told us what to do if we ever find ourselves in one of these situations.
What to do first when you suspect a sick notice is fake
After finding one or more suspicious medical certificates in your organization, the first thing you should do, Chenia says, is contact the doctor and verify the authenticity of the certificates and possibly the diagnosis. But be aware that the practitioner is under no legal obligation to tell you anything as it could be a serious breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. However, Yeats says, if the CCMA subpoenas the doctor, it would be obligated to provide details of the employee’s illness.
What is a doctor allowed to tell you?
If you contacted an employee’s treating physician to establish the nature of the illness that caused the work stoppage, the physician would be able to confirm:
- If he had examined the employee,
- On what date he examined the employee, and
- If he had issued a medical certificate stating that he had examined the employee and found that the employee was unfit for work.
Check the address and registration number of the medical practice
There have been cases where a practice number has been used by multiple doctors to issue fake medical certificates. So if you have a number of employees with medical certificates issued by doctors with the same practice number, and you suspect foul play, investigate thoroughly!
If you suspect the doctor or practice number is fishy, Chenia advises you to contact the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) or the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa to research the healthcare professional or practice.
Important: If during your investigations you find that the practice number is not registered with the HPCSA or the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa, you have the right to refuse the certificate!
Send a “test patient” to see if a doctor prepares medical certificates
Another way to check suspected fraudulent practitioners is to send a test patient to be examined by the practitioner. This, Yeats says, will work similarly to a mystery shopper in a retail environment, i.e. just as a mystery shopper is sent into a retail environment to test service levels. to customers so that the test patient is sent to establish whether the practitioner concerned is willing to give the tested patient a fraudulent medical certificate.
If a dispute between employees, for example over abusive sick leave, goes to arbitration, you have the right to appoint your own doctor to testify at the hearing.
7 steps to take when you suspect sick leave is being abused at your company
At the end of his presentation, Yeats suggested that you follow seven steps to eliminate sick leave abuse when you suspect it in your company:
- Analyze time off patterns to see if someone might be abusing time off, for example, people always take a sick day before or after a long weekend.
- Call a board meeting with the employee to discuss their absenteeism rate. During this meeting, talk to him about the possibility of correcting his behavior.
- Monitor this employee to see if the action to correct their behavior was successful.
- If your employee has not taken the corrective action and continues to take sick leave without being able to produce proof that they have in fact been ill (or if they have not followed the appropriate procedures for you let it be known that he will not be at work), take disciplinary action against him.
- Impose progressive discipline on him and if he makes the same mistake, give him a written warning.
- If his behavior regarding the abuse of sick leave still does not improve, hold a formal disciplinary hearing.
- If the employee still does not comply, the next step is termination.