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Sick leave abuse is becoming a major problem in companies in South Africa according to Human Capital Review.

Do you know your sick leave entitlements?
The average person should be taking no more than 3 days sick leave per year, i.e. 1.5% of the year (based on 250 working days per annum). However, the actual rate is more than 6% – that works out to 15 days per annum.

What are your entitlements in terms of sick leave?
Firstly sick leave should be viewed as an insurance. The BCEA states:
During every sick leave cycle (36 months), an employee is entitled to an amount of paid sick leave equal to the number of days the employee would normally work during a period of six weeks.

Why does it say not say that you are entitled to 10 days per annum? It is because you are not expected to take sick leave every year. Sick leave is an insurance. You don’t accrue it the way that you accrue annual leave. It is expressed this way because six weeks is the amount of time that you would need to recover from a broken leg or major surgery.

So, if you abuse your sick leave and take the 15 days per annum that other staff do, when you do find that you have had a serious accident or needed surgery, you won’t be paid for the full period as you will not have 30 days available to you.

What are the employer’s rights in terms of sick leave?
The BCEA states that:
Despite subsection (2), during the first six months of employment, an employee is entitled to one day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked.

You need to be aware that even if you do bring a doctor’s note, if you are in the first six weeks of employment, it will be unpaid leave. The maximum amount of sick leave that you can take in the first six months is 5 days.

The employer is entitled to ask for a sick note and they are entitled to check that the certificate has been issued by a person who is authorised to issue it and to check that you were, in fact, too sick to attend work. If they are not satisfied, they are  under no obligation to pay you for the absence. Visits to the clinic to collect medication, dental check-ups and routine visits to doctors do not qualify as sick leave. Submitting a fake certificate will result in your dismissal and possible criminal prosecution. The veracity of a sick note takes 5 minutes to check on the Medical and Dental Council’s website… so don’t be tempted.

Employers’ are entitled to consider whether a person is capable of performing their duties if they are frequently absent from work. If you are deemed to be incapable, the company is entitled to dismiss you for incapacity (boarding). If your company has a good insurance structure you may be able to claim disability benefits during this period. If not, you may have to survive on UIF Ill Health Benefits or Social Welfare Disability Benefits.

Make sure that you understand your company’s procedure for reporting that you are not going to be at work. Not following procedure could result in your dismissal. In a recent training session the question was asked, “What happens if I don’t use my sick leave?” The answer was, “You get promoted”. Companies do not give opportunities to employees who are considered to be “unreliable”. They would be unwise to give you training or development opportunities as they are unlikely to get a return on their investment.

Sick leave is there to ensure that you receive your salary in the event of a disaster. You will one day have that serious illness or bad accident. Consider what would happen if you did not get paid.

Think of the consequences before you decide to take sick leave when you are not really sick.

(Information supplied by Desrae Connold of Connold and Associates – on behalf of Ad Talent).

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