Informing the employer and proof of illness
Employees are required to inform the employer, at the earliest opportunity, of the intention to take sick leave – preferably before they are due to start work, but otherwise as early as possible after falling sick.
Employers are able to ask for proof of sickness or injury at any time once an employee takes sick leave.
Special rules apply if the employer requests proof within three consecutive calendar days of the employee taking sick leave. The employer must inform the employee as early as possible that the proof is required, and pay the reasonable expenses in getting proof. Employers are not required to have reasonable grounds to suspect that the sick leave is not genuine before requesting proof within these first three consecutive calendar days.
The three consecutive days can’t be interrupted by a scheduled break. For example, if an employee takes a day's sick leave on a Tuesday, then has a one-day scheduled break on the Wednesday and another day’s sick leave on Thursday, the employee can be asked to provide proof of the sickness or injury even though the Thursday is only the second day of sick leave.
Where the employee is using sick leave to care for another person, such as a spouse or child, the employer can similarly require proof of illness or injury for that person.
The employer cannot require the employee to visit a particular doctor, i.e. the employee has the right to choose their own doctor.
If an employee fails, without reasonable excuse, to provide proof of illness or injury when required by the employer to do so, the employer does not have to pay the employee for the leave until proof is provided.In any circumstance where the employer comes to believe that the employee has misused a sick leave entitlement, this issue can be dealt with as an employment relationship problem under the Employment Relations Act. If the employer hasn’t requested proof of illness or injury at the time, they are not precluded from using the normal processes for dealing with problems of employee performance, and the mediation services of the Department of Labour can be asked to help resolve any dispute.