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Why is a sickleave policy vital?

Employees and Sick Leave

Ironically, there is nothing like a worldwide pandemic that cause employers to read up on their own sick leave policies.

In South Africa, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Section 22 and 23, refers to Sick Leave.  Employees that worked for longer than six months for a company, may take sick leave for the duration equivalent to six working weeks.  Thus, for a person that normally works five days a week, it calculates to 30 days.

For a person that normally works six days a week, it calculates to 36 days.   On the other hand, for an employee that had worked less than 6 months for an employer, sick leave is accrued at an equivalent to 1 day for every 26 days worked.


However, it is usually not Section 22 of the BCEA that employers struggle with.  The real struggle is with Section 23.  Proof of incapacity.  How does an employee proof he is incapacitated?  When should an employee obtain this proof?  How many days should an employee be absent before it becomes necessary to obtain proof?

In order to prevent any misunderstandings, it is vital that employers have a valid ‘leave policy’ in place.  The BCEA provides little guidance here, except to indicate that an employer MAY require an employee to provide a medical certificate BEFORE providing sick leave payment, when an employee is absent for MORE than two days.  Note that without a ‘Leave Policy’ that provide guidance, an employee is not necessarily obliged to obtain a sick letter until the 3rd day of illness.


Furthermore, this is also only if he/she wants to get sick leave payment for these days.  If the sick leave rules are not stipulated, one can argue that an employee may be absent, without obtaining a medical letter, and the company cannot take disciplinary action, as long as the company is informed of his absence.  An unscrupulous employee may take advantage of such situation.  For example, an employee that wakes up with a hangover may call in ‘sick’.  No need for a medical letter.  No need for proof of incapacity.  It is only one day.

 Therefore, it is very important to ensure that there is a ‘Leave Policy’ in place, that provide guidance (to both employer and employee) with regards to sick leave, or risk being taken advantage off.