Fit for work certificates (Vic) – what you need to know
This article will assume that you have a WorkCover claim on foot and that your ability to work has been impacted by an injury, illness or condition related to your employment.
It will also assume that you are thinking of returning to work or it has been suggested that you return to work and you’re wondering whether you need a ‘fit to work’ medical certificate.
Table of Contents
What is a fit for work medical certificate?
Under the WorkCover scheme in Victoria, technically there is nothing called a fit for work certificate.
What there is however is a certificate of capacity.
When it comes to WorkCover many people when they refer to a ‘fit for work certificate’ are actually just referring to a certificate of capacity with a particular certification.
You can read about certificates of capacity here.
In a nutshell, certificates of capacity are also called WorkCover certificates.
They are certificates used specifically in matters where someone has a WorkCover (or TAC) claim on foot.
They are different to normal medical certificates as they are specific to the WorkCover scheme.
Certificates of capacity are used in WorkCover matters where a person wishes to claim weekly payments of compensation. You can read about weekly payments here.
When completing a certificate of capacity, the person that is certifying you whether that be a GP physio or someone else, needs to comment specifically on your work capacity.
They need to tick a box that says you have a capacity for full unrestricted duties, modified duties or no work at all.
And next to whatever box they tick, they will need to specify a date range that the work capacity certification applies.
If you hear someone refer to you needing a fit for work certificate, and you have a WorkCover claim on foot, it is highly likely that what they are actually asking for is a certificate of capacity.
Sometimes they might also refer to them as clearance medical certificates.
And specifically (usually), a certificate of capacity that certifies you fit for full, unrestricted duties.
You will not generally find your lawyer or the WorkCover insurance company reference fit for work certificates.
They generally will refer to certificates of capacity or WorkCover certificates.
Do I need a certificate to say I am fit for work?
If you want to return to work then yes you will need a certificate that certifies you fit to do so.
However, a certificate doesn’t necessarily need to certify you fit for full unrestricted duties to return to work.
If you are certified fit for modified duties, then an employer is obliged to offer you modified duties in line with the restrictions on your certificate.
So if you have a restriction on your certificate of capacity that says you can’t lift more than 10kg and can’t lift anything above shoulder height, then the duties that you are offered need to be in accordance with these restrictions.
If no suitable modified duties exist, then you do not have to work and are entitled to be paid your full weekly payment entitlement at that time.
It’s also important to note that if you are certified with a work capacity for modified duties only, the duties do not have to be similar to your pre injury duties.
For example, whereas before the injury you may have been working in a factory on a production line. Modified duties may involve you doing work that is completely different – eg: administration work in the office.
An important point regarding fit for work certification
When you are getting a certificate completed, whether that be by your GP or another medical practitioner, it is important that they understand your job so they can certify you properly.
They need to really understand the ins and outs of what you do.
Using the example above, lets say that you work in a factory on a production line. The GP just assumes your work is light, and is mostly done by machinery so lifting and moving heavy items is minimal.
However, the reality might be that you’re regularly having to physically move boxes that weigh about 20kg a piece. You’re also required to stack heavy boxes onto pallets and move them using a pallet jack to a different part of the factory 50 metres away, multiple times during a shift.
If the GP doesn’t understand the extent of the work you do, he or she may for example provide you with a certificate that certifies you fit to return to your pre injury duties.
This could possibly place you at risk of aggravating your injury and returning to work for which you are not ready.
So for this reason it is important that the person that is certifying you actually understands what is involved in your day to day role.
When it comes to WorkCover, most of the time when someone refers to you needing a fit for work certificate, what they are actually referring to is a certificate of capacity or a WorkCover certificate that certifies you fit for full, unrestricted duties (or occasionally, for modified duties).
When you obtain a fit for work certificate, you need to ensure that the person certifying you understands the extent of the work you do.
This is important. You really need to make sure that they understand all of the tasks that you perform so they can accurately certify you.
If the person providing the certificate doesn’t understand all of your work tasks, it is possible that you could be sent back to work before you’re ready to do so which could result in an aggravation of your injury.
Hopefully this all makes sense?
If not, feel free to reach out to us.