Board Proposal to Change Article 16: Sick Leave
AU has proposed new powers that would allow AU to send you to a company doctor for a medical examination if:
1. you use sick leave frequently or for a prolonged period,
2. the university believes you are unable to do your duties do to illness or disability, or
3. the university believes you are mis-using your sick leave.
This proposal is disrespectful of our integrity and our privacy. More details on these proposals follow below.
Independent Medical Exams
At present, AU can request limited medical information from the health-care professionals selected by AUFA members to provide treatment. For example, AU can seek confirmation that an AUFA member will be on sick leave for a period of time, what work restrictions an AUFA member may have due to illness or disability, and whether any work restrictions are temporary or permanent.
AU can also, in limited circumstances, request an AUFA member attend an independent medical examination (IME) performed by a doctor appointed by AU. For example, AU may request an IME when an AUFA member’s primary health-care provider refuses to provide required information or, in AU’s view, lacks the necessary expertise to make a determination about work restrictions.
Where an AUFA member does not consent to the request of an IME, AU is required to go before an arbitrator to prove the need for an IME. This requirement prevents the employer from illegitimately demanding a non-therapeutic medical examination by a company doctor.
AU’s proposed language on company doctors would eliminate the need for AU to prove to a neutral third-party the necessity of the IME. Instead, the university would have significant latitude to impose (upon pain of discipline and/or loss of sick leave) an IME.
The key risk posed by this proposal is that AU will mis-use this power. For example:
Fear of being sent to an IME may cause AUFA members to not use their sick leave when its use is medically required.
Where workplace harassment has caused an AUFA member’s performance to deteriorate or the member to go off sick, AU may demand an invasive IME to further harass the sick member.
The medical opinion of a company-paid doctor may result in a refusal of sick leave or the alteration of work restrictions set out by the AUFA member’s treating physician.
A secondary risk stems from the fact that diagnoses of an illness and determination of work restrictions (particularly, but not exclusively, with mental illness) are lengthy processes. These decisions are best made by health-care practitioners who have an existing and often lengthy relationship with an AUFA member and whose key interest is the well being of their patient. These are not the characteristics of company doctors.
Basically, AU’s proposal asks AUFA members to trust:
1. that AU will exercise the powers it seeks under this proposal in a fair and reasonable manner, and
2. that a company-doctor’s judgment is superior to our own doctor’s judgment.
The rationale for this proposal is cost-savings. Specifically, AU will be able to avoid the time and cost of having to prove to an arbitrator that an IME is required. This cost-savings for AU comes at the expense of AUFA members’ privacy and dignity.
There is no evidence of wide-spread mis-use of sick leave by AUFA members. A review of 15 years of AUFA files identified one case where the university officially raised concerns about the accuracy of medical information provided to the employer. This concern was resolved through the disciplinary process.
1. Do you support giving AU the power to require non-therapeutic examinations by company doctors?
* Results do not total 100% due to rounding.