When an employee’s medical condition or injuries are in such a state that he or she can no longer fulfil his or her duties towards the employer, it can result in termination of employment. There are important guidelines prescribed by the applicable legislation before such a dismissal can occur.
The employee’s circumstances and the impact of the employee’s disability and absence on the employer must be taken into account.
Important aspects that must be investigated are:
whether the disability is permanent or temporary;
whether the employee cannot work at all or whether he or she can still do some tasks;
whether the employee has medical reports or recommendations by specialists such as occupational therapists regarding possible recovery of the employee;
the employee’s own experience and suggestions;
the degree of absence from work;
possible alternative work the employee can still do; and
a possible adjustment of current tasks and work circumstances.
Dismissal due to medical disability should be the last option and all possible alternatives must be properly investigated in attempt to avoid dismissal.
Possible alternatives can include the following:
Placing someone in a job where no physical work is required
Transforming the work environment to make it more accessible and favourable for the employee
Restructuring of the employee’s work hours and duties
The aspects investigated as well as the alternatives considered must include consultation with the employee. Both the employee’s situation as well as the operational needs of the employer must be considered.