The Shift in Onus When Employers Challenge Medical Certificates

In the realm of employment, medical certificates play a crucial role in determining an employee’s ability to work and their entitlement to sick leave. However, there are instances where employers may find it necessary to challenge the validity or authenticity of a medical certificate presented by an employee. When such challenges arise, there is a shift in the onus of proof, requiring the employee to provide evidence to substantiate their claim of incapacity. This shift is rooted in the Law of Evidence Act, which recognizes medical certificates as hearsay evidence.

Under normal circumstances, a medical certificate is considered prima facie evidence of an employee’s incapacity to work. It serves as a reliable document issued by a medical professional, attesting to the employee’s medical condition and their inability to perform their duties. However, there are situations where employers may suspect potential abuse or question the employee’s true state of health. In such cases, employers have the right to challenge the medical certificate and request further evidence to support the employee’s claim.

According to Section 3(4) of the Law of Evidence Act, the value of evidence, whether oral or written, depends on the credibility of the person giving that evidence. This provision places the burden on the employee to lead evidence and establish the veracity of their claim when their medical certificate is challenged. Merely presenting a medical certificate is not sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof, as it is considered hearsay evidence without further substantiation.

When faced with a challenge to their medical certificate, employees must provide additional evidence to demonstrate that they were genuinely unable to work and to indicate the extent of their incapacity. This evidence may take various forms, such as additional medical reports, test results, or expert opinions. By presenting such evidence, employees can strengthen their case and provide the necessary credibility to their claim of incapacity. 

It is important to note that employers should approach the challenge of medical certificates with caution and fairness. While there may be instances where employers suspect abuse, it is essential to maintain a respectful and confidential approach throughout the process. Privacy laws and employment regulations should be upheld, ensuring that the employee’s personal health information is handled with the utmost care and sensitivity.

In conclusion, when employers challenge the validity or authenticity of a medical certificate, the onus of proof shifts to the employee to provide evidence supporting their claim. This shift is based on the Law of Evidence Act, which considers medical certificates as hearsay evidence. Employees must lead credible evidence to substantiate their incapacity to work and provide a clear indication of the extent of their inability. Employers, on the other hand, should approach the process with fairness, respect privacy laws, and establish transparent policies and procedures for verifying medical certificates. By maintaining a balanced approach, employers can uphold the rights of both the organization and the employee while ensuring the appropriate use of sick leave and the overall well-being of the workforce.