I recently received a question from Jolene from Johannesburg surrounding Sick leave in South Africa. I did answer Jolene directly via E-Mail however I thought it might be an interesting subject to write a short article on.
Many workers do not entirely understand the law surrounding sick leave and the individual rights of both the employer and employee. Fortunately, as with most employee/employer-related questions we can find most of the answers in the basic conditions of employment act or the labour relations act, and this is no exception. Section 22 and 23 of the BCEA detail all the rights and obligations for workers and employers in South Africa.
Sick Leave in South Africa
How much sick leave are you entitled to?
This is one of the most common questions I receive surrounding sick leave in South Africa. It seems that most employees are under the impression that their sick leave cycle works on an annual (yearly) basis, however, this is incorrect. Possibly this could be because many employers tell their staff that they receive 10 or 12 sick days per year. The reality is that your sick leave cycle actually works on a 3-year cycle.
So how much are you actually entitled to?
Well, if you have been employed at your current employer for less then 6 months, you are entitled to take one day’s sick leave for every 26 days worked. As soon as you pass the 6-month mark and enter the 7th month you enter the 36 weeks (3 years) period. During this period you are entitled to paid sick leave equal to the number of days you would normally work during a 6 week period. In other words, if you normally work a 5 day week you are entitled to 30 days sick leave over a 3 year period. You are able to use these sick days at any point during the next 2.5 years. If you took any sick leave during the first 6 months these days will be deducted from your total available days.
I think that I should mention that if an employee were to use up all of their available days before the end of the 3 year period then any other sick days would be considered unpaid leave. Workers need to use their allocated sick leave responsibly and only when they are ill.
Am I entitled to full pay during sick leave in South Africa
Yes. It is as simple as that. Payment for sick leave must be calculated at the employee’s normal wage or salary.
I have heard of employers entering into agreements with staff where the employee agrees that payment for sick leave would be paid at 75% of the employee’s normal wage. In return, the employer agrees that the employee’s sick days are increased by 25% per 3-year cycle.
Do I need to provide a sick note?
According to section 23 of the BCEA, an employee is required to present a sick note (medical certificate) if they have been absent due to illness for 3 days or more, or, if they have been absent on more then two occasions during an 8 week period.
However, please make sure that you check your contract of employment carefully. There are many employers that require a sick note even for one day absent. If no provision is included in your contract of employment the BCEA would apply. An employer is not obligated to remunerate an employee if they fail to provide a sick note when required.
One touchy subject that often comes up surrounding sick leave in South Africa is the issue of sick notes from traditional healers. Employers often tell their staff that these medical certificates are not valid, however, they to be cautious. The BCEA makes provisions for medical certificates from a traditional healer as long as the traditional healer is a registered practitioner, who is registered with a professional council and is certified to diagnose and treat patients.