9 November 2021
The abuse of sick leave has in the past and continues to cost employers millions if not billions of Rands every year in South Africa. The main challenge among employees is that sometimes they are misinformed about the correct requirements that constitute a valid media certificate or sick leave and they end up falling on the wrong side of the law.
In today’s blog, UASA looks at a few basics that determine whether a medical certificate is valid enough to justify the payment of the employee from his or her sick leave entitlement.
Who may sign medical certificates?
Section 23 of the BCEA deals with proof of incapacity which states that:
- an employer is not required to pay an employee in terms of section 22 if the employee has been absent from work for more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during eight weeks and, on request by the employer, does not produce a medical certificate stating that the employee was unable to work for the duration of the employee’s absence on account of sickness or injury;
- the medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or any other person who is certified to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament.”
There are two requirements for a medical certificate to be a valid medical certificate; it must state that the employee was unable to perform his or her normal duties as a result of illness (or an injury) and must be based on the professional opinion of the medical practitioner.
In other words, a certificate that states that the practitioner “saw the patient” or “was informed by the patient” is not considered to be a valid medical certificate since the practitioner did not declare in his or her professional opinion that the employee was unable to perform his or her normal duties as a result of illness (or an injury). Such certificates are merely an indication that the practitioner saw the patient, for example, a check-up, or that he was informed that the patient was unfit for duty.
The second requirement is that the certificate must be issued by a medical practitioner. A medical practitioner is described in the definitions of the Act as:
- a person entitled to practice as a medical practitioner in terms of section 17 of the Medical, Dental and Supplementary Health Service Professions Act, 1974 (Act No. 56 of 1974);”
In terms of the above mentioned Act the following professionals are considered to be medical practitioners:
- Medical practitioners (Doctor with MBChB degree) that are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
- Dentists that are registered with the HPCSA.
- Psychologists with a Masters’ Degree in Educational, Counselling, or Clinical Psychology that are registered with the HPCSA.
Traditional Healers can only issue medical certificates if they are registered with the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa.
A practitioner is defined in terms of the Allied Health Service Professions Act 63 of 1982 as a person registered as an Acupuncturist, Ayurveda practitioner, Chinese medicine practitioner and Chiropractor, Homeopath, Naturopath, Osteopath, Physiotherapist or Unani-Tib practitioner.