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HR 101 – What to do When . . . Staff Don’t Supply a Doctor’s Certificate

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations, The Basic Conditions of Employment Act and Best Practice requirements.

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, I am sure we have all experienced the same problems with our staff, particularly around the issue of doctor’s certificates when staff are off ill or when staff with babies or small children are off ill.

Much of the aggravation can be avoided by having a proper Letter of Appointment in place. Some of the issues that need to be documented are (but are not limited to):

– During the first six months of employment you are entitled to 1-day sick leave for every 26 days worked.
– Thereafter you are entitled to 36 days (if you work a six day week) every 36 months or 30 days (if you work a five day week) every 36 months.
– Sick leave cannot be accumulated
– Sick leave cannot be paid out.
– Sick leave (or indeed any leave) can only be taken in accordance with Company Rules and regulations. (This would include things like (but not be limited to, sick leave forms that would need to be completed and when doctor’s certificates are required etc.)
– If a staff member is off for two consecutive days or on a Friday (or Saturday) or Monday or before or after a public holiday, a certificate must be submitted together with the leave application form, from a registered practitioner.
– A Medical Certificate can also be requested by law and in compliance with the BCEA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) if your staff member is absent for more than one day every 8 weeks.
– Medical appointments, unless in the case of an emergency, should be made first thing in the morning (and where applicable the staff member should then go to work) or last thing at the end of the day, so as to disrupt the workflow as little as possible.
– Failure to produce or submit a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner, where applicable may result in unpaid leave.
– As an employer, you are not required to pay an employee if they don’t submit a doctors certificate where required.
– The certificate must be from a registered medical practitioner. If the doctor/traditional healer/herbalist (insert whatever you like here) is not registered as a medical practitioner you are not obliged to accept the certificate.
– As an employer, you are entitled to verify the authenticity of the certificate by phoning the doctor to verify that the employee is/was in fact under treatment or that they did in fact visit the doctor for treatment.

Remember though – your staff are entitled to confidentiality so you are not entitled to know the details of what is actually wrong with them or the nature of the treatment.