Doctors do not grant sick leave
MANY workers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law when they have absented themselves from work after being given a sick leave certificate by the doctor. The law is express on who grants sick leave and that is the employer. A doctor’s certificate is merely a supporting document and it does not mean that once granted a sick leave certificate, one has to take off without getting permission from the employer.
The Labour Act is express on the procedure and in section 14(2) it reads, “During any one-year period of service of an employee an employer shall, at the request of the employee supported by a certificate signed by a registered medical practitioner, grant up to 90 days’ sick leave on full pay”.
This clearly does not give the doctor permission to grant sick leave, it empowers a doctor to give a certificate to legally support an employee’s application for sick leave. Where an employee is sitting on a sick leave certificate and he decides to stay at home without applying for sick leave from the employer, he may be disciplined and could lead to dismissal.
The legal question here is not that one was sick but that the employee did not request for the sick leave as required by the provisions of section 14(2) of the Labour Act. Workers should not hide behind the argument that the employer can see I was sick or injured. That is not in dispute but the question is “Did you, after getting a doctor’s certificate request for sick leave using the doctor’s certificate as a supporting document”?
John had flue and was given six days off sick through a certificate signed by a medical doctor. He did not bother to go to the employer to request for sick leave, neither did he bother to communicate to the employer that he was sick. He only pitched up at work after six days. He was charged with failure to follow procedure and dismissed as per code of conduct guidelines.
The employer argued that the fact that he was seen by two employees, who gave evidence, driving to the shops in the nearby township clearly showed that he was not that sick to be unable to request sick leave from the employer. On his way to the shops he could have passed by the workplace to request sick leave. There are, however, exceptional cases such as employees who fall sick or are injured to an extent that they are unable to request for sick leave as required by the Labour Act. Such cases are dealt with using the principle of reasonableness that is answering the question “When would a reasonable person in the circumstances of the employee have requested for sick leave from the employer? This means that there are cases where sick leave will be granted after it has been accessed, but these cases are few and far in-between.
My advice to employees is that whenever they are sick, they must be seen by a doctor or state registered nurse and request a certificate to support their request for sick leave and thereafter contact the employer and request for sick leave as per internal procedures of the organisation. Some organisations will accept a telephone call, a picture of the sick leave certificate on WhatsApp, emailed sick leave certificate and request through personal delivery of sick leave certificate by a relative or friend. It is the duty of every employee to know the internal processes to be followed before one is granted sick leave. Employers also have a duty to advise employees of internal procedures.
In my opinion, there are, however, limited options for the employer once a request has been made supported by a sick leave certificate from a medical practitioner, the employer has no choice but to grant the sick leave as given in the certificate. However, the employer has the right to check whether the certificate is authentic or whether the medical practitioner or state registered nurse is registered in terms of the appropriate laws of Zimbabwe.
In conclusion, despite being given a sick leave certificate, workers still have to request for sick leave as the doctor’s certificate is only a supporting document.
Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: stratwaysmail@yahoo. com Or cell No: 0772 375 235