Fake Sick Notes
19 October 2016
The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has urged employers to be vigilant about the increased availability of fake sick notes. Improvements in editing software and the proliferation of websites where employees can obtain fake sick notes were both key factors highlighted by an article in the MDU Journal.
Similar issues are apparent when it comes to fake qualifications or ID documents, and some very convincing fakes are available. With regards to ID documents and the Right to Work in the UK, government guidance confirms that an employer “will only be liable for a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent that it is false”. In short, there is no expectation that an employer will be an expert at verifying ID documents.
When it comes to sick notes, your default stance should be to work on the basis that any documents you are provided with are legitimate unless there is something that arouses your suspicions. The financial ramifications of falsely accusing an employee of faking a document are likely to exceed any potential saving in sick pay.
If, however, there is something about a sick note that does make you suspicious, you should take legal advice as to the steps you can take. Helpfully, the MDU have actually clarified that Doctors are able to confirm that they did not create a document and this will not breach confidentiality. This opens the door to employers potentially approaching the Doctors of their employees for evidence of illegitimate sick notes.
Should it be proven that an employee did fake a sick note, this is clearly a serious disciplinary matter and one which would be highly likely to result in formal disciplinary action. As with any disciplinary matter, it is imperative that a fair process is followed prior to any action being taken.
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