Stock photo of a number of sick notes.

KwaZulu-Natal - The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has spent more than R11 million on salaries for 40 employees who are on sick leave and have applied to go on ill-heath retirement.

The amount excludes money spent on a further 29 employees who are on extended sick leave, according to figures in a report presented recently to the education portfolio committee at the KZN legislature.

It said 69 employees were on extended sick leave, 40 of whom had applied for ill-heath retirement and had been referred to the health risk manager for assessment.

The outcome was that 10 employees would be medically boarded in January and February next year.

Applications by five had been denied and they had been told to return to work. Another applicant had died and the rest of the applications were still to be finalised.

The report cited an employee in eThekwini as having been paid the most, just over R1 million, from 2007 until October this year

Although he had not been on sick leave the longest, his salary level was high. He had been away for 1 119 days.

An employee from Zululand had been on sick leave the longest, since 2004.

However, he had only been paid R397 911 for the 1 615 days that he had been away because his salary level was much lower.

The report said a task team had been formed to monitor the taking of sick leave or extended sick leave, and district office staff responsible for its administration were being monitored to ensure compliance with procedures.

Also, a circular outlining the roles and responsibilities of all employees relating to the management of leave would be sent out.

Appropriate disciplinary action would also be taken against employees or supervisors or both, for non-compliance with the relevant procedures.

A department official at the committee meeting complained that the leave system was not properly computerised but said within a year or two it should be managed at provincial level.

The chairwoman of the committee, Linda Hlongwa, said there needed to be a leave management plan for the future ensuring accountability in cases of abuse.

The Mercury