Navigating Sick Leave with your Employees

Section 22 (sick leave) and 23 (proof of incapacity) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA)is your guiding light through the labyrinth of sick leave. 

Entitlement: Employees are entitled to paid sick leave equal to the number of days they would normally work in a 6-week period over a 3-year cycle.

Calculation: For an employee working 5 days a week, this amounts to 30 days of sick leave over 3 years. For an employee working 6 days a week, this amounts to 36 days of sick leave over 3 years. 

First 6 months: During the first 6 months of employment, an employee is entitled to 1 day of paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. 

Payment: An employer must pay an employee for sick leave at the employee’s normal wage rate. 

Proof of illness: An employer is not required to pay an employee for sick leave if the employee has been absent from work for more than 2 consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an 8-week period and does not produce a medical certificate.

Requirements for a valid medical certificate:

  1. The medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament;   
  2. It should clearly state that the employee was unable to work for the duration of the absence due to sickness or injury;
  3. The date and time of the examination should be noted;
  4. No “back dated” medical certificates have to be accepted;
  5. The date the certificate was issued should be clearly recorded;
  6. A description of the sickness or injury (within ethical constraints) should be mentioned;
  7. It should be recorded whether the practitioner has found the employee unfit for work or may recommend returning to work;
  8. The period of recommended sick leave should be recorded on the medical certificate;
  9. The practice number of the practitioner should be clearly visible. Visit to verify the practice number of a medical practitioner:

Traditional Healers: 

The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007 recognizes traditional healers as legitimate health practitioners in South Africa. The certificate should include the traditional healer’s practice number (as well as all the other requirements as per point 1 to 9 above) which an employer must verify with the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa. An employer can also make contact with the HPCSA to request support in this instance. 

Professional Registered Nurse:

Nurses are registered with the South African Nursing Council, which is established by an Act of Parliament. Employers should only accept a medical certificate from a Professional Nurse with post-basic diplomas/additional qualifications who are registered as such. Professional Nurses may only book an employee off sick for a maximum of 2 days. 

It’s important to note that employers must have their own policies regarding sick leave and medical certificates, and these must comply with or exceed the minimum requirements set by the BCEA.

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