Sick Leave South Africa – How Does Sick Leave Works & FAQ

It is general knowledge that many times, people simply fall sick when they least expect their body would break down. It happens every now and then, and it can happen to anyone too. Nevertheless, there are workers who are usually in deep worry when they observed illness has crept into their bodies. Not just because of the unpleasant effects, it has on their health, but because they are worried and losing their job and being fired by a boss who doesn’t care a bit about their wellbeing, or they might not get the salary they rely on.

Well, if you are an employee in South Africa, I listed and give several important details on Sick leave South Africa to help you. Not only will it enlighten you about this discourse, but it will also empower you to not fold your arms dying in silence while working with an ill body that should be receiving care. Once we know our rights, privileges, and obligation to an employer as stated in South Africa’s labor and employment laws, it makes a whole lot of difference.

Sick Leave South Africa

Even on a general level, sick leave is necessary for several important purposes. An employee, who is a human being too, may have medical needs after picking an injury, childbirth, physical or mental illness, and so on. They might even have to take care of a sick member of their family, such as an ill child (Family care), or even experience a tragic situation that brought bereavement.

Let’s explore the discourse of sick leave in South Africa. 

How Does Sick Leave Work In South Africa

The Department of Labour in South Africa already made it known that employees in the country may take the number of days they would normally be active at their place of work in a 6-week period for sick leave on full pay in a three-year period. It should be noted that your boss actually has the right to ask for proof of illness before paying you for sick leave. 

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa applies to all employees working in the country except those working in the National Intelligence Agency and South African Secret Service. Also, members of the National Defence Force are excepted, as well as unpaid volunteers that are working for a charity in the country. This cannot also be experienced by employees who work less than 24 hours in a month, as well as those that receive compensation for an occupational injury or disease.

The Sick Leave works in such a way that your boss may really require a medical certificate before paying his employees who are absent for more than 2 consecutive days, or who are absent more often. 

Sick Leave Policy South Africa

Different countries have different frameworks in place as far as their employment act that pertains to sick leave policy is concerned, but we are interested in South Africa’s sick leave policy here, which can be explored when evaluated from the segment of the country’s Employment Act that addressed the issue.

In the Employment Act, Section 22(1) to 22(4) states that during each 36-month cycle  (which will be counted from your very first day at work), you as an employee is entitled to a paid sick leave. 

This sick leave policy enlightens that the above have to be equivalent to the exact number of days that the employee usually works in a typical 6-week period. Hence, let’s say you usually work five days a week, which means you are duly entitled to a 30-day sick leave on full pay. 

People that work six days each week, such should get a 36-day sick leave on full pay. Now, when distributed across the three years, it means the worker should get an average of 10 to 12-days of paid sick leave each year.

It should also be added that according to the Act, you are entitled to a one-day paid sick leave every 26 days that you will have worked during the first six months of employment in the organization. It must however be added that any sick leave days you get during this period will be deducted from the 36-month entitlement. So, if you should finish using your sick leave either at the beginning or in the course of a cycle, it means you will not have any sick leave left for you for the remaining period. What then happens when next you required a sick leave? You should have it in mind that when granted, it will simply be treated as unpaid leave. 

The Employment Act which structured the sick policy has made known the rights and privileges of employees when they are ill. Nevertheless, it is meant to be experienced only by folks who genuinely need it, and not those who made up a story just to lie that they are sick when they are not. Hence, you must bring proof that you genuinely need the sick leave and won’t be able to carry out your duties, before you can be given.

It must be added that while these things are meant to ensure the rights of employees, there are balances in the sick leave policy that will ensure employees won’t abuse the standing of their employers. So, there is a part of the Employment Act that stipulates that your boss is not mandated to pay you if you have not been present at work for more than two different occasions on eight weeks without proof of sickness or injury. This is also applicable in cases where you as an employee have not been present at work more than two days consecutively without proof of sickness or injury. 

Basically, you must produce a medical certificate that has been signed by a registered medical practitioner and submit it to your employers. It must however be noted that the medical personnel has to be certified to conduct health checks and treat patients. Nevertheless, the Employment Act also clarified that when situations arise where it is not necessary to submit a report (like an employee staying with an employer who is already aware of the condition of the worker), the employer should not withhold the employee’s rightful payment. 

How Many Sick Leave Days Do You Get In South Africa

It is already stipulated in the Act that you may take the number of days you would normally work in a 6-week period for sick leave on full pay in a 3 year period. You should also note that you are only entitled to one day of paid sick leave for every 26 days worked during the first 6 months of your employment by your employer

Sick Leave During Notice Period South Africa

On a general level, the Employment Act in South Africa already stipulated that termination of employment may occur only on notice of not less than one week (that is if the worker has been employed for six months or less) or two weeks (if such has been employed for more than six months but not more than one year). When applicable to farmworkers or domestic workers, the notice shouldn’t be less than four weeks (that is if the worker has been employed for one year or more).

The Act clarified that if the employment contract you as a worker had with your employer stipulates that you must give 2 months notice for termination of the contract, then your boss too must give you 2 months notice if they wish to terminate the contract or dismisses you. Of course, this must be given in writing except when the employee is illiterate.

The Act also stipulates that if a worker requires sick leave during a period of notice, such is still entitled to take paid sick leave during the period as long as they have sick leave days available. 

What Qualifies As Sick Leave South Africa

You must understand how this works as an employee so when you are feeling ill and need to see a doctor, you will know the rules to follow to claim this entitlement. Sick leave,  as explained already, works in a three-year cycle. You may take one day of sick leave for every 26 days you engage in work during the first six months of your employment. Afterward, you may take the number of days you normally work in 6 weeks during every 3-year cycle. 

Can You Be Fired For Being Sick In South Africa

Actually, the law has provided strong protection for the sick and disabled workers in South Africa, and employers are prohibited from disciplining employees who are ill or disabled just anyhow.

Let’s even say a worker that uses narcotics and such becomes addicted to it, according to the law, he or she is to be regarded as being ill, and is therefore protected by law. 

So, you can’t be unjustly fired by your employers simply on the ground of being ill. Section 6 of the Employment Equity Act in South Africa prohibits unfair discrimination against workers on the grounds of illness. It equally protects disabled people in the workplace, and an employer must not discriminate against them just because they are disabled. Actually, the law wants employers in the country to see how they can recruit and accommodate folks with disabilities.

Do You Need A Sick Note For One Day Off In South Africa

No, you don’t. If you understand the basic conditions of employment, you will know that you as a worker can actually be absent from work for more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period before you will be required to submit a medical certificate to your employers. 

How Many Days Can I Be Off Work Without Doctors Note

As explained earlier, you have the right as an employee in South Africa to be off at work for two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period before being required to submit a medical certificate to your boss. 

Fake Doctors Sick Note South Africa

Many times, folks tend to abuse things. Abusing the sick leave thing is not an exception. Hence, there are cases where employees will go ahead to submit fake doctor sick leave and make it seem as if it is genuine. However, it should be noted that anyone found guilty of falsifying/altering handwritten notes on a medical certificate, according to the law, can be found guilty of committing a criminal offense punishable by a court of law such as a magistrate’s court. This should make you think twice before taking such an illegal step. And if you are an employer, you have the right to question the validity of a medical certificate, particularly if it seems dubious.


DISCLAIMER: It must be noted that this article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not actually address individual circumstances. This is never a substitute for professional advice or assistance, and you are not encouraged to rely on it to make decisions of any kind. 

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