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6.5.4 Limits to the Period Covered by the Medical Certificate

Medical certificates of incapacity for work need to specify the period for which the certificate applies.  This means that the certificate needs to specify start and end dates of the period covered by the certificate.  Open-ended certificates and those written in terms of 'totally and permanently incapacitated' are not acceptable for this purpose.

The start-date is usually that date on which the doctor examined the person for the purposes of providing the certificate.  Retrospective dates of alleged incapacity i.e. a certificate for dates prior to the date of the examination, are not acceptable.

The only exception to this rule is where the certifying doctor was also the treating doctor for all of that period preceding the date of the certificate.  That is, the period of certification must reflect only the period over which the certifying doctor had a direct, personal (i.e. first hand) knowledge of the case.

The end-date of the certificate should be that date at which the doctor anticipates the incapacity will have ended or at least changed in degree.  The initial maximum period of incapacity to be certified at one time should not usually exceed 3 months.  However, in the case of long-term incapacity recipients whose medical condition is stable and whose capacity for employment has been tested by a vocational rehabilitation program with the result that the existing state of incapacity is now unlikely to change, the period of certification can be extended to 12 months.

In exceptional circumstances, i.e. generally with respect only to those who have been assessed as eligible for the Special Rate Disability Pension, irrespective of whether they have chosen to continue to receive incapacity payments, the delegate may waive the requirement for a medical certificate specific to the period of payment.  Payments to such persons are still subject to annual general reviews of circumstances and to periodic Specialist Medical Reviews (SMRs).