Employer may require fitness for work certificate

In a recent unfair dismissal case*, Commissioner Spencer of the Fair Work Commission has upheld the validity of a dismissal where the company, self evidently from its name a miner, required an employee who worked at a mine site, and who had a reasonably complex history of back and other injuries, to be assessed and cleared for a return to work by a medical practitioner nominated and paid for by the company when the employee had been warned that a refusal to attend the assessment might attract disciplinary measures, including dismissal.
She said the increased safety risks inherent in mining operations also meant that BHP Coal was justified in seeking to have the worker’s medical assessment performed by a doctor with knowledge of mining and the company’s operations.
The commissioner also observed that the occupational physician’s expertise was the “interaction between medicine and the workplace” and he had knowledge and experience of the mining industry, while the worker’s doctors did not.
The case begs the question though, whether the result would have been different if the workplace had not been as dangerous as a mine, and the implication of the medical issues so complex to a minesite.
*Grant v BHP Coal (2014) FWC 1712, delivered on 14 March 2014.