By Nico Strydom
South African labour legislation makes provision for paid sick leave, but it is essential not to abuse this type of leave as it could cost you dearly later.
In terms of section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act sick leave is calculated over a cycle of three years. During the first six months an employee may take one day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked.
After this period an employee will have the same amount of sick leave as the number of days that he or she would have worked over a period of six weeks. Therefore, if you work five days a week, it would mean 30 days’ sick leave per three-year cycle.
According to the Act an employer need not pay an employee for sick leave if the employee was absent from his or her job for longer than two successive days, or on more than two occasions during a period of eight weeks and, after a request by the employer, failed to submit a medical certificate that states that the employee was unable to work for the duration of his or her absence due to illness or injury.
The Act also specifies that a medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or some other person who is qualified to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with an occupational council. The medical certificate must also indicate that the employee, in the medical practitioner’s professional opinion, was unable to work for the duration of the employee’s absence.
In practice, however, employers often stipulate further requirements. An employer may, for example, require a medical certificate if you were absent on a Friday or Monday, or on the day before or after a public holiday. Such a policy would not be unfair because sick leave is easily abused.
It is therefore essential to make sure that you are familiar with your employer’s sick-leave policy as the employer may institute disciplinary action against you if you do not comply with the provisions of the policy.
It is also essential to use sick leave responsibly. For instance, you cannot ask your employer to grant you sick leave that falls outside your sick-leave cycle.
Therefore, make sure that you use your sick leave wisely so that you do not find yourself in a difficult situation where you are seriously ill but do not have enough sick leave left and have to use your annual leave or take unpaid leave.
Basic Conditions of Service Act: http://www.labour.gov.za/DOL/downloads/legislation/acts/basic-conditions-of-employment/Act%20-%20Basic%20Conditions%20of%20Employment.pdf