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A police officer recently tried to insist on a short-term sickness certificate for a five-day illness. He claimed his employers insisted on this as part of their policy on recurrent sickness absence. Was I right to refuse?

There is no contractual or legal obligation to provide short-term certification. This is reinforced by the Government's cutting paperwork initiative and is strongly supported by the LMC.

We are aware that some police forces, in an effort to cut excessive sickness-attributed absence from work, are seeking such short-term certification from any employee with frequent recurrent short-term sickness absence.

These patients are very often suffering from problems induced or exacerbated by a high-stress working environment. This is predominantly a human resources and occupational health service problem for the police force and should not be allowed to create an additional and unnecessary burden for GPs.

If the patient attends for treatment, then you may choose to provide a private certificate for an appropriate fee if you wish. Employees are frequently asked to pay any fees charged, which are then reimbursed by the employer.

Dr Christine Dewbury, Wessex LMCs

Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given. Readers should seek independent advice before acting on the information concerned.

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