Important details on how sick leave work in South Africa

How many times have you woken up with a cold, flu or something worse, and dragged yourself to work anyway, worried about the consequences of staying at home?

If you are an employee in South Africa and have found yourself in such a situation, you do not need to be scared of losing your job or pay.

Many employees worry about receiving warnings for not going into work or stress about projects piling up in their absence.

So are you entitled to take a day or two if you’re not feeling 100% fine or should you go to work regardless?

In order to make your decision, it helps to know your rights, privileges as well as your obligation to the employer as stipulated in the country’s labor and employment laws.

Here’s everything you need to know about sick leave in South Africa.

Generally, sick leave comes in handy for a several purposes.

  • For an individual’s medical needs i.e. child birth, injury, mental or physical illness, etc
  • Family care i.e. attending to a sick child
  • Bereavement purposes

Nevertheless, some of the above purposes may only apply depending the specific country’s employment act or a company’s sick leave policy.

How does sick leave cycle work?

If the employee works five days per week, then they are entitled to a 30-day sick leave on full pay. On the other hand, if the person works six days per week, then they will have a 36-day sick leave on full pay. When distributed across the three years, one may have a 10 to 12-days paid sick leave per year on average.

However, during the first six months of employment, one is only entitled to a one-day paid sick leave in every 26 days that they will have worked. Note that any sick leave days that are taken during this period usually are deducted from the 36-month entitlement. If a person uses up all his/her sick leave either at the beginning or in the course of a cycle, then they will not have any sick leave available to them for the remaining period, and any further requirement will just be treated as unpaid leave.

Proof of illness 

The employee needs to produce a medical certificate that has been signed by a registered medical practitioner who is certified to diagnose as well as treat patients. However, in case it is not reasonable for the employee that is living in his/her employer’s premise to obtain such a certificate, then the basic conditions of employment act sick leave stipulate that the employer should not withhold their rightful payment. The only exception to this would be if the employer provided reasonable assistance to the employee to enable them to obtain the medical certificate.

How is the payment for the sick leave calculated?

It is important to note that a person’s payment for the sick leave is usually calculated at the salary or wage rate that the employer offers. To convert the monthly payment into the daily rate, the employer will take your monthly gross income before any deductions are made and then divide it by 4.3. This will give the weekly rate, which is then divided by five to find the day rate. In case one wants to arrive at the hourly rate, they can divide the number of hours that the employee usually works in a single day.

Application of the sick leave

The basic conditions of the employment act usually apply to all workers and employers except for;

1.  Members of the National Defense Force

2. Members of the National Intelligence Agency

3. Members of South African Secret Service

4. Unpaid volunteers who are working for a charity

The section of this act that regulates the working hours does not usually apply to;

1.  Workers who are in senior management

2. The sales staff members who travel a lot and regulate working hours by themselves

3. Those workers who work for less than 24 hours within a month

4. Workers who earn more than the amount stated in section 6 (3) of this Act

Other people that are excluded from some of the provisions of this act are those workers that are engaged in emergency work and those that usually receive compensation for occupational injury or disease.

Cases of employment termination because of ill health incapacity are relatively fewer in South Africa. The incapacity that is brought about by poor work attendance or even mediocre performance because of ill health can be defined as the inability or failure of a worker or employee to carry out their assigned tasks or job up to the expected standards. In such a case, the sick leave policy allows the employee to either apply for the ill health retirement or ill health incapacity. If they have taken the ill health retirement option, the employee may need to contribute to their Personal Health Insurance through their pension fund.

Furthermore, the basic conditions of employment act leave require the employer to ensure that comprehensive medical assessments are done before dismissing their employee on the grounds of incapacity or their failure to meet the work performance standards. Otherwise, any judgment that is made by such an employer would be seen as unobjective and one that is not inspired by reason.

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