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Sick leave in the workplace: know your rights

Sick leaveHow 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 so, you’re not alone. 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% or should you go to work regardless? In order to make your decision, it helps to know your rights first: 

1 Unlike the US, in South Africa paid sick leave is a right and one that you’re entitled to take advantage of. Essentially, sick leave works in a three-year cycle, giving you the same number of paid leave days as you would normally work in a six-week period. So if you would work five days a week for six weeks, that’s 30 days of paid sick leave owing to you over a period of three years. 

2 Just started a new job? Then you’ll be the exception to this rule, at least for a short while. That’s because, for the first six months of working for a new employer, you’ll be entitled to one day’s paid sick leave for every 26 days worked. 

3 Should you be absent for more than two consecutive working days, you’ll need to provide a certificate from a registered medical professional in order to justify this absenteeism. Many companies demand a sick note should you be ill on a Friday or a Monday, however it’s important to note that this is not the law. Should you fall ill on a Friday, by law the first day on which you would be required to provide a medical certificate would be the following Tuesday (i.e. more than two consecutive days off). 

4 Don’t think that you can simply pull a sickie if you drank too much the night before though. If you apply for sick leave more than once in an eight-week period (even if you only ask for one day each time), and don’t substantiate your application with a medical certificate, your employer is under no obligation to pay you. 

5 Similarly, if you use more than your allotted paid sick leave within your three-year cycle, any sick leave you may need over and above this can be deducted from your annual leave instead. 

 6 If you’re having a baby, you’ll be glad to know that by law, you’re allowed a full four months of leave, starting four weeks before your due date. It’s important to note that your employer isn’t obligated to pay you in full for this period. You’ll need to take a look at your contract of employment to familiarise yourself with your company’s particular maternity leave payment policy. 

7 Similarly, you’re also entitled to three days of family responsibility leave per year, provided you’ve worked at your company for more than four months, and work for more than four days a week. This leave can be taken in the event of the death of your spouse, partner or a member of your immediate family.

If you have any questions about the ins and outs of sick leave in SA, it’s a good idea to take a look at the basic guidelines as laid out by the Department of Labour. Knowing your rights can help you stay in your employer’s good books and can help you get better faster, too, without putting any of your colleagues at risk. 

Looking for more career advice? Here are 5 signs you’re a victim of workplace bullying!

Glamour International