What happens in the event that a Company’s Medical Practitioner gives a different medical opinion to the one expressed by an Employee’s GP?
In an interesting case, the Rights Commissioners and Labour Court ruled against an employer who refused to seek a third medical opinion where there was a difference of opinion between the worker’s own GP and the company appointed doctor.
Sick Leave – Labour Court Case
In the case of Imperial Tobacco v A Worker (July 2009) the worker was on sick leave from early October 2007 for what was certified by his GP as “stress reaction to work”.
By the end of December, the worker had exhausted his sick pay entitlement for that year in accordance with the company’s sick pay scheme (7 weeks per year of paid sick leave).
The employer had inadvertently paid 2 weeks over and above his entitlement i.e. 9 weeks sick pay.
The Company’s Occupational Physician found that the worker was fit to resume work at the beginning of 2008.
The worker’s GP found he was unfit for work.
The Company’s position was that it would make no further payments (in 2008) as he was fit to work (as deemed by the Company Occupational Physician).
Furthermore, the company refused to agree to a third medical opinion being sought, independent of the Company Doctor and the Employee’s GP, on the grounds that, under its sick pay scheme, it had the right to refer worker’s to their own occupational physician.
The issue was contested in the Rights Commissioner and subsequently the Labour Court who found in favour of the worker.
The Labour Court decided that the worker had met his obligation by being certified unfit for work and that the opposing opinion by the company appointed doctor did not give the employer the right to refuse benefits under the sick pay scheme in the following year.
This case points to the need to amend company sick pay schemes to address the situation where there is conflicting medical evidence between Company doctor’s and employee’s GP’s.
The Labour Court further stated that the approach adopted in relation to addressing such a situation should be acceptable to all parties.