Doc­tors do not grant sick leave

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Labour col­umn

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

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