U of M dispenses with sick notes

‘We trust our students will use this option in good faith’

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THE University of Manitoba says students will no longer need a sick note for a temporary absence, a policy change that will ease the burden on the health-care system.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/07/2022 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE University of Manitoba says students will no longer need a sick note for a temporary absence, a policy change that will ease the burden on the health-care system.

Instead, students will be asked to fill out a self-declaration form, beginning in the fall term.

The decision will take effect more than two years after the Canadian Medical Association urged employers and institutions to do away with sick notes.

“We trust our students will use this option in good faith,” says Laurie Schnarr, the U of M’s vice-provost students said in a news release. “They are still required to complete the missed work. It just eliminates the need for students to justify their brief absences when extenuating circumstances arise. That time is better spent studying or making up missed schoolwork.”

Jaron Rykiss, president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, welcomes the change, saying that it is in line with the student union’s advocacy goals.

“I think it will help students because especially with the international (student) community, a lot of students have anxiety about going to practitioners. They’re not sure if they’re going to be covered,” Rykiss told the Free Press.

In more than 20 years of teaching, Adele Perry, a professor of history at the U of M, has never asked students to produce sick notes. Still, Perry believes eliminating them will reduce student stress and administrative issues.

“I think they end up compelling students to take time that they don’t need to take, and sometimes spend money they don’t need to spend, in order to have something be documented that actually might not really be documentable,” Perry said.

Dr. Candace Bradshaw, president of Doctors Manitoba, believes phasing out sick notes could ease the burden on family doctors.

“At the moment, we’re short doctors in Manitoba, and in particular, we have the lowest number of family doctors in Canada,” Bradshaw said. “A lot of the sick note requests come to family physicians, and freeing up some appointment time with unnecessary visits would be very helpful for us.”

Eliminating sick notes would also prevent busy students from having to take time off work or school “to attend an appointment that’s not necessarily needed in the first place,” Bradshaw said.

Schnarr said the university is following the lead of Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, which has a similar policy.

Schnarr said student abuse of the system is rare.

Bradshaw said she hopes to see other workplaces and institutions follow suit.

“It’s become a real thorn for family doctors,” Bradshaw said. “I don’t think it carries any more weight than the patient saying directly to their employer that they were unwell that day.”

“These are appointments that I think are better used for people who need them on an urgent basis.”

cierra.bettens@freepress.mb.ca

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