Contact Ana Subač directly!

Is an employer always obliged to let an employee see a doctor?

Most likely, many employees have encountered situations during work where they have a fever or feel extremely unwell, necessitating prompt medical attention. In severe cases, a doctor will provide a sick leave certificate to validate the absence, eliminating the need for discussions with the employer about seeing a doctor. Generally, it is in the employer’s best interest to encourage this, as they are responsible for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace and preventing the spread of illness among employees.

The situation is different if you or your young child’s health is at stake and you need to consult a specialist. Often, accessing such specialists can be challenging and you might have to wait for an appointment for months, so selecting a visit time after work hours might be more theoretical than practical thing. The same applies if you experience severe tooth pain during work hours. In these cases, while a doctor’s visit is necessary, a sick leave certificate may not be issued. The question is: Does an employer required to allow an employee time off to see a doctor when no sick leave certificate is provided?

The employer is not always obliged to allow employees to see a doctor during work hours

Under the legislation, an employer is not always required to allow an employee to visit a doctor during work hours unless the employee’s condition poses a risk to others. The Labour Code of the Republic of Lithuania states that employers must allow employees to seek medical care during working hours in specific circumstances:

For mandatory health examinations

Employees are required to undergo periodic medical examinations to ensure their ability to work given the harmful factors outlined in medical certificates issued by the employer. It is the employer’s responsibility to arrange these compulsory health checks and allow employees to attend them during work hours. During this time, employees are entitled to their average wage, and the employer must also cover the costs of the examination. However, employees have the option to undergo health check-ups on their days off. In such cases, the employer is not obligated to compensate for this time if the check-up is initiated by the employee.

For vaccinating employees at risk of contracting communicable diseases

The list of professions and duties for employees vaccinated at the employer’s expense is established by the Order No. V-716 of the Minister of Health of the Republic of Lithuania dated October 14, 2004, “On the Approval of the List of Professions and Duties of Employees Vaccinated at the Employer’s Expense”. Employees are entitled to their average wage during the time spent on vaccination.

When pregnant, recently gave birth, or breastfeeding employees need to undergo health checks in medical facilities

Article 37, paragraph 10 of the Law on Occupational Safety and Health stipulates that if a pregnant, recently gave birth, or breastfeeding employee needs to undergo a health check, they must be released from work, and their wage must be paid for the time spent on health checks if they need to undergo them during working hours.

In other cases provided for by law.

Therefore, the law does not provide for an imperative obligation for the employer to allow the employee to visit medical facilities in all cases. However, the foundation of an employment relationship is built on mutual respect, trust, cooperation, and acknowledgment of family responsibilities. Therefore, employers should not ignore the employee’s requests related to the need to visit a doctor. It is advisable for employers to establish and document clear guidelines about how employees should report and coordinate any temporary absences with the employer, including whether such time will be compensated or needs to be made up, along with any other pertinent details related to the absence. These guidelines should be communicated to employees in the usual way within the organization. Having a clear procedure in place not only minimizes the risk of disputes or conflicts but also protects employers from potential abuses where employees may attempt to shorten their work hours by claiming medical visits without facing any reduction in wages.

What to do if such a procedure is not in place? (Advice for the employees)

If the employer has not established a procedure for employees to follow when they need to be absent from their workplace for a certain period during work hours, the employee should first contact their direct supervisor or another responsible person and inform them of the day and time period they need to be away from the workplace. Otherwise, if the employee fails to provide such information to the employer, being late for work or leaving work without authorization may be considered a breach of work duties by the employer. In this situation, the question of payment for such time also becomes important.

Therefore, if the employer disagrees with the employee visiting a doctor during working hours, the employee should consider using one of the alternatives provided in the Labor Code:
Use available paid annual leave

In this case, it is worth mentioning that Article 128, paragraph 4 of the Labor Code establishes the employer’s obligation to grant such requests if they are submitted by employees belonging to more vulnerable groups. This includes employees caring for sick family members or disabled persons, individuals with chronic diseases that flare up due to atmospheric conditions, as advised by a healthcare institution and those whose request to use paid leave is supported by a healthcare institution’s assessment of their health condition.

Apply for unpaid leave

It should be noted that in this case, Article 137, paragraph 1 of the Labor Code establishes mandatory cases where the employer cannot refuse a request for unpaid leave. These include cases where the request is made by an employee who has a child under 14 years of age, a disabled employee, an employee raising a disabled child under the age of 18 or caring for a disabled person diagnosed as requiring permanent care. Additionally, the provision covers employees caring for a sick family member or someone living with them, as well as those who have provided a healthcare institution’s report on their own health condition.

Requesting unpaid time off for personal needs

This provision can apply to either a full working day or just a part of one. In such cases, with the employer’s consent, the employee will be compensated only for the time actually spent working. This means the employer is not required to pay for the time the employee spends visiting the doctor.

Use of parental days

If an employee has a child under 12 years old or a disabled child under 18, it is advisable to schedule doctor’s appointments for the children in advance whenever possible. Under these circumstances, the employee should responsibly use their right to take additional paid rest days or to reduce their working hours by 2 or 4 hours per week, as applicable. This right is supported by the Article 138, paragraph 3 of the Labor Code, which aims to facilitate the balance between work and family responsibilities for employees caring for young or disabled children.