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HR 101 – What to do when . . . You’re not sure if a medical certificate is required

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.

First of all the BCEA (Basic Conditions of Employment Act) says that you are not obliged to pay a staff member if they are absent from work for more that two consecutive days or more than two (single) days during an eight week period, if they do not, will not or cannot produce a medical certificate.

The medical certificated must state that the staff member was not able to work for the dates and the duration that the employee was absent from work because of ‘sickness’ or injury.

Should the employee be off ill for an isolated day, they are not required to produce a medical certificate provided that it is not more than one day in every eight weeks.

It is a good idea to lay down the rules governing sick leave, in your letter or contract of employment. ‘Spell it out’ in easy to understand language. Let them know what the requirements are and what they can do and what they cannot do.

For example, “Medical Certificates are required if an employee is ill and/or injured for two consecutive days and/or on a Friday (or Saturday) and/or on a Monday and/oror on the day before or after a public holiday.”

“Medical Certificates are also required if more than one single day is taken during every 8 (eight) week period.”

“Failure to produce and/or submit a Medical Certificate from a registered medical practioner may result in the employee taking unpaid leave.”

This tells the employee, very clearly what the boundaries are and what the consequences are, should that boundary be crossed. It removes the emotion out of the situation, is clear on its intent and removes all confusion.

Remember to keep it as simple and as clear as possible.