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Updated 06 January 2014

Sick leave myths busted

Unsure whether to bring a sick note after two or three days of taking off ill? Here are the facts.

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Many myths surround the issue of sick leave. Check out these facts below on this thorny workplace issue:

Myth – A sick note from a traditional healer is not a valid sick certificate.
Fact – A sick certificate from a traditional healer is valid as long as the practitioner is registered. The law says that a medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner – that is a person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients – who is registered with a professional council that is established by an act of parliament.

Myth – I need to present a sick certificate if I was off for two consecutive days.
Fact – An employer can only request a medical certificate if an employee has been absent from work for more than two consecutive days – in other words, from the third day onwards. An employer can also request a sick note if an employee takes a day sick leave more than twice in eight weeks. If the employee does not produce a valid medical certificate in these circumstances, the employer does not have to pay the employee for the day he/she did not work.

If an employer has experienced a lot of problems with sick leave, he or she may include a clause in the terms of employment that requires an employee to produce a sick certificate under certain circumstances, for example when taking sick leave on a Monday or Friday.

Myth – Employers have no right to question a sick certificate.
Fact – The fact is that an employer has every right to question a sick certificate, especially if there are grounds to believe that the employee might not have been sick – as was the case of the employee whose picture appeared in the newspaper for winning a golf tournament on the same day he was supposedly sick with flu. However, an employer cannot refuse the sick certificate on a hunch, and would have to provide evidence – either proof that the sick note is invalid, or an eye witness that saw the “sick” employee dancing at a nightclub the night before.

Myth – Sick leave works on an annual cycle.
Fact – Sick leave works in a three-year cycle. During the first six months of employment, an employee may take one day's sick leave for every 26 days worked. Thereafter, an employee may take the number of days he/she normally works in six weeks during every three year cycle.

During the first six months of employment, an employee is entitled to take one day sick leave for every 26 days worked.

Myth – I have to put in normal leave when I stay at home to look after a sick child.
Fact - If the employee has worked for an employer for longer than four months, and works at least four days a week, he or she may take three days paid family responsibility leave during each year of employment. Family responsibility leave applies when the employee's child is born, when the employee's child is sick, in the event of the death of the employee's spouse, life partner, parent, adoptive parent, grandparent, sibling, child, adopted child.

An employer may ask for reasonable proof of an event when this type of leave is taken, such as a death certificate or doctor's letter for a sick child.

Myth – I can access my sick leave if I fall ill while on normal leave.
Fact – The law does not have any specific regulation around this and it may differ from company to company. However, labour law consultant, Michael Bagraims, believes that an employee is not entitled to "trade" their normal leave for sick leave should they become sick while on holiday.

Myth – I have to put in normal leave everytime I go to the clinic to get my medication.
Fact – According to Michael Bagraims a person can access sick leave when they need to do something in line with an illness. – (Health24, updated January 2014)

Read more:
Summer sick leave rates low
Healthy workers work hard

 
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