French health authorities are launching legal action against a website that offers to provide employees with valid sick notes.
Arretmaladie.fr, which translates to "sick leave", officially launched on Tuesday in France. It offers workers the possibility to hold a video call with a doctor and obtain a sick note for up to three days for common illnesses, including a cold, headaches, stress, menstrual pain, cystitis and back pain.
Patients pay €25 for the service — the same as a doctor in France would charge for a consultation — which is then reimbursed by the social security benefits system and private health insurance.
The sick note is sent to the patient by e-mail, who can then forward it to his or her employer to justify an absence.
But the National Council of Physicians (CNOM) and the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM) have jointly launched legal action against the website, calling for its immediate shutdown.
"The Order of Physicians resolutely places itself in a dynamic of support for the new paths offered by e-health, but it unreservedly condemns any attempt to Uberise medicine," the head of CNOM, Patrick Bouet, said in a statement.
The CNAM added that the website "deviates from medical ethics".
"Sick leave [notes] are not consumer products that can be distributed upon patients' requests. They fall under a medical prescription and must be the result of the physician's initiative," it stated.
The service first launched in Germany in December 2018 and has since delivered more than 30,000 sick notes. The company's website states that "even though teleconsultation is not proposed in Germany, no misuse or misdiagnosis has been reported".
It also refutes any risk of abuse in France in its FAQ section, writing that French workers are among the "most present" at work in Europe based on a 2019 survey, which found that 62% of employees showed up at work despite being sick.
The average French worker took 18.6 days of sick leave in 2018, according to the latest annual report from Ayming, a consulting firm. This represented an 8% increase from the previous year with the absenteeism rate established at 5.1%.
In Germany, workers took an average of 18.5 sick days in 2018 according to the BKK health insurance company, the highest tally in a decade, with the absenteeism rate reaching 4.67%.
In contrast, British workers did not show up at work for an average of 4.4 days because of sickness in 2018, the Office for National Statistics found, noting that "the sickness absence rate was relatively flat between 2010 and 2018 and stood at 2.0% in 2018".