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State attorneys outraged at colleague’s seven-year sick leave on full pay

According to one staff member: ‘Other secretaries are crumbling under the weight of the work while this madam sits at home...’ Picture: Supplied

According to one staff member: ‘Other secretaries are crumbling under the weight of the work while this madam sits at home...’ Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 24, 2023

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Cape Town - Staff at the Office of the State Attorney in Cape Town are outraged that one of their colleagues has been on sick leave for seven years while still earning a full salary and benefits – this despite her having been spotted by colleagues while taking regular holidays.

According to one staff member: “Other secretaries are crumbling under the weight of the work while this madam sits at home, too sick to come to work, but she can holiday and shop in Tyger Valley.

“Every day, an email goes out saying who is off, etc, and her name has been on the list all these years. We all see it and wonder how one person’s apparent sick leave is not resolved.”

The source at the Office of the State Attorney said the secretary had cut all social ties with colleagues after they complained about her not seeming ill. She even allegedly blocked them from her social media accounts, where they allege she had posted pictures of herself on holiday.

Attempts to get comments from the secretary were unsuccessful as she did not respond to efforts to reach her over the course of a week.

However, reached for comment on the issue, Public Service Association (PSA) spokesperson Reuben Maleka said: “In this case, the member has since applied for ill-health retirement and is still awaiting employer feedback.

“It would be unfair to put the blame on the member if the employer does not respond to an application for ill-health retirement.”

He said the secretary had been in contact with her employer’s human resources department and they were fully aware of her health condition and her pending ill-health retirement request. Department of Justice (DoJ) spokesperson Steve Mahlangu confirmed that an official investigation was conducted on the matter.

Mahlangu said: “A final report has been concluded with recommendations.”

He added that the department was not in a position to divulge any further information. “The relationship between the department and its employees is governed by strict confidentiality policies,” Mahlangu said.

According to the Public Service Commission, public servants, in general, qualify for between 30 and 36 days vacation leave per annum and 120’ days sick leave in a cycle of three years.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) guidelines issued in 2021 said: “The employer may, in terms of the applicable employment legislation, consider on the basis of medical evidence the discharge of an employee on account of ill-health.”

The guidelines also say that in such cases the employer, in this case the DoJ, may in addition to medical evidence presented by the employee, request the employee to undergo a medical examination.

Commenting generally and not about this specific case, an HR expert, Nicol Myburgh of CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, said: “If you take a sick day so you can have a fun day, you’re committing fraud and can lose your job.”

Myburgh said a sick day was defined as time off work to recover from mental or physical illness, a health condition or an injury.

“South African labour laws are very protective of employees, and often this results in people pushing the envelope further than they should.

“Sick leave abuse, however, is something that will result in an employee being disciplined, if not fired, and will fundamentally break the trust between the employee and the employer.”

“After all, the person has lied to their manager and colleagues, and it’s hard to rebuild relationships from there.”

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Cape Argus