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MY labour law firm, over many years, has witnessed numerous examples of employee ingenuity in seeking to justify absenteeism on grounds of legitimate sick leave, and submitting fraudulent medical certificates.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), in section 23, outlines the requirements for a legitimate and acceptable medical certificate qualifying an employee to be paid statutory sick leave.
In short, an employee is obliged to furnish the employer with a legitimate medical certificate “if the employee in absent from work for more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period” [s.23(1)].
Furthermore, “the medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or any other person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with a professional council established by an act of Parliament” [s.23(2)].
Further guidelines relating to the issuing of bona fide medical certificates as contemplated in section 23 of the BCEA may be found in Rule 15 of the Health Professions Council of SA’s Ethical Rules, which provide that “a practitioner shall grant a certificate of illness only if such certificate contains the following information:
a) The name, address and qualification of the practitioner.
b) The employment number of the patient (if applicable).
c) The date and time of the examination.
d) Whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds.
e) A description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology with the informed consent of the patient.
If the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit for work.
f) Whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation.
g) The exact period of recommended sick leave.
h) The date of issuing the certificate of illness;
i) A clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate, which shall be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.”
Medical certificates issued by clinics and hospitals are admissible only in the event that they have been signed by a registered medical practitioner associated with that institution.
Such certificates are not admissible in the event that they have been signed by unregistered nurses or other such clinic or hospital staff.
Finally, it seldom does any harm to contact medical practitioners to verify medical certificates. The response to certain enquiries of this nature can be illuminating.
l Book for a Seta-accredited “Conducting Disciplinary Hearings” workshop (September 19 and 20) by phoning 011 476 1620, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.tonyhealy.co.za