Living Q & A: My employer asked for a medical certificate before I return to work after I had COVID-19
I had COVID-19, and was restricted from working, and have now recovered. Once the recuperation period was over, I was told by the health center that I was able to work again. But when I asked my employer about returning to work, I was asked to provide a medical certificate certifying that I didn't have COVID any more. Do I have to provide a medical certificate?
When a person is infected with COVID-19, the health center (hokenjo / 保健所) will determine where the person should recuperate according to the individual's condition. In addition, the individual is restricted from working (shūgyō seigen / 就業制限). An individual who has been restricted from working due to being infected with COVID-19 is considered to have met the requirements for cancellation of the work restriction once they have met the requirements for ending their period of recuperation (ryōyō kikan / 療養期間), whether they spent it in hospital, at an accommodation facility, or at home.
Although it seems that you were notified by the health center that the restrictions on your working had been removed, these restrictions are removed when medical personnel have confirmed the individual's condition. According to an administrative communication from the national government dated 1 May 2020 (amended 31 January 2022), 'when resuming work at one's place of work, etc. following removal [of work restrictions], submission of certification (e.g. certification of discharge by a medical facility / health center, certification of recuperation at an accommodation facility or at home, a negative result of a PCR or qualitative antigen test kit, etc.) to the place of work, etc. is not required'. This is also considered to apply to the ending of the isolation period (taiki kikan / 待機期間) for people deemed close contacts (nōkō sesshoku-sha / 濃厚接触者).
In order to obtain the understanding of your employer, it might be helpful to discuss the situation with your employer and ask that they contact the health center with jurisdiction and confirm the policy concerning removal of work restrictions. It seems that some health centers issue a document certifying a patient's recuperation period. If your employer persists in requesting a medical certificate, please consult your nearest Labour Standards Inspection Office (rōdō kijun kantokusho / 労働基準監督署). The Labour Bureau has also been notified by the Ministry of Health and Welfare regarding this issue, and should be aware that submission of certification is not required.
On the other hand, an employer has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers, and your employer may be requesting a medical certificate in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. In this case, as the medical certificate is required for the employer to fulfill their obligation, the cost of obtaining a medical certificate should be borne by the employer. It should also be noted that, amid the demand on resources resulting from the high number of COVID-19 cases, the national government has asked that people refrain from making requests to health centers and medical facilities to issue certificates and other documents.
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