November 26, 2015

In this practical session, specialists will provide guidance on getting the medical information you need and are entitled to in your capacity as an employer, HR professional, or union representative, while also respecting employee privacy. Questions to be addressed include:

  • Dealing with vague doctors’ notes: What medical information may an employer or union representative legally request? When can they ask for it? How does the information required to justify a long-term absence, access to long-term disability benefits or support a request for accommodation differ from the information required to justify short absences from the workplace? What is the most effective way of requesting the information you need? How should unions and employers request information from physicians? How specific should they be in their requests? What questions are likely to prompt physicians to provide useful information? What types of questions are likely to result in physicians providing vague information? Are standardized forms helpful? If so, what should and should not be on standardized forms? What are some examples of doctors’ notes that are too vague? If you receive a vague response, how should you request more specific information?
  • Consulting with health professionals and specialists: When do you need information from a specialist? For mental health issues, is information from a family doctor sufficient, or should you seek medical information from a psychiatrist or psychologist? What relative weight should employers give to information from specialists, information from general practitioners and information from health care professionals who are not physicians? For example, should the information supplied by physicians always be preferred over the information supplied by professionals who are not physicians? Are there particular types of questions that GPs are ill-equipped or reluctant to answer? What guidelines and/or professional rules guide physicians in providing information to employers and unions?
  • Handling employee medical information: Are employers free to share an employee’s medical information with the employee’s union in order to facilitate accommodation? What should employers and unions do to protect confidentiality of medical information in their possession? What steps does provincial law require the employer to take to shield that information? What steps does federal law require? What right does an employee or other affected party have to view information in the possession of a doctor, the employer, the union, the insurer, a workers’ compensation board, etc.? What disclosure exemptions are provided for by statute?