The Employer’s Guide to Sick Leave

The Employer’s Guide to Sick Leave

Employers frequently ask when they can request a medical certificate from employees and when disciplinary action can be taken for absenteeism relating to sick leave.

When an employee inform his employer that they are ill, it is important to remember that the employer can only request a medical certificate after two days of absenteeism. However, when an employee is absent again during the next 8 weeks as a result of their sickness, the employer is entitled to request a medical certificate from the first day as proof that they were incapable to perform their duties.

Who can issue a medical certificate?

Only a medical practitioner can issue a valid medical certificate and a clinic note or a note from a pharmacist, is not a valid medical certificate. The agricultural industry is the only industry where employees are exempted from these requirements due to the remote location of some farms and in this instance, employers should accept clinic notes as valid medical certificates.

Who will qualify as a medical practitioner?

The following professionals are deemed medical practitioners that can issue valid medical certificates:

  1. A medical doctor.
  2. A dentist.
  3. A psychologist with a Master’s degree, who is registered at the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
  4. A medical practitioner who is registered in terms of the Allied Health Services Professions Act.

Traditional Healers

When it comes to medical certificates issued by traditional healers, employers should know that no council for traditional healers has yet been established and as a result, these medical certificates does not comply with the legal requirements.

Disciplinary action for absenteeism

No disciplinary action can be taken when employees are absent because of illness but cannot produce a valid medical certificate. The employee will have to either 1) utilize their annual leave for the days of absenteeism or 2) take unpaid leave for the days which they were absent from the workplace.


Ruan Vlok obtained his LLB degree from the University of the Free State and completed his articles at Mcintyre Van der Post Law Firm in Bloemfontein. He is an Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa. He joined SEESA as a labour legal advisor in April 2015.


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