Proposed labour legislation banning employers in Ontario from demanding sick notes when employees take time off from work will help contain illnesses and free up valuable appointment time with doctors, says a Toronto physician.

The new rules, slated to take effect in January, mandate that workers be entitled to 10 personal emergency leave days a year, two of which must be paid. It also bans employers from asking for doctor’s notes for workers who take fewer than the allotted days.

“So no more of those useless visits, especially in to the doctor just to get a note to verify what we all knew was going on,” said Dr. Ruth Heisey, chief of family medicine at Women’s College Hospital.

“Most commonly, it’s a common cold or it’s a flu and there is no reason to go to see your doctor. You can take care of yourself at home and that’s what you should be doing to get better faster.”

Heisey told CTV News Channel that forcing doctors to police employee absences is a “waste of our skill set.”

Most importantly, requiring workers to trek into a doctor’s office or clinic for a sick note interrupts time they should be resting, takes up precious appointment blocks, and exposes others in the waiting room, potentially vulnerable patients, to germs.

“From a disease control perspective, that goes against best practices. You’re bringing sick people in to make other people sick. That does not make good common sense,” Heisey said Friday.

Issuing medical notes is not covered by OHIP, so most doctors bill the patient directly, adding up to an unnecessary expense, Heisey added.

The Ontario Medical Association has been calling for an end to sick note requirements for several years. The government says many employers no longer require them and the legislation will force others to get in line. The new rules will take precedence over any provisions about sick notes in collective agreements.

Under the proposed legislation, personal emergency leave includes sick days, days to stay home caring for sick family members, or for domestic or sexual violence or the threat of it. Until now, the right to personal emergency leave has been limited to workplaces of more than 50 employees.

“There’s no question that it may be difficult for some employers, but it’s the right thing to do,” said Heisey.

The changes are part of a broad package of labour reforms – the Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act – that include: a $15 minimum wage by 2019; requiring employers to pay part-time, temporary, casual and seasonal workers the same hourly wages as full-time colleagues; and increasing vacation entitlements to three weeks after five years with a company, up from two weeks now.

The proposed legislation would also create new, separate leaves for child death from any cause or a crime-related child disappearance, both for a period of up to 104 weeks.

It would also increase family medical leave from up to 8 weeks in a 26-week period to up to 27 weeks in a 52-week period.