At the end of the year many employees and employers are struggling with extreme exhaustion and in some cases are even on the brink of burn-out.
According to Helena Roodt, a senior associate at Schoeman Law, this becomes problematic when these exhausted employees do not have any annual leave left to apply for.
Roodt said that this results in employees arranging “a paid-for holiday” for themselves by submitting fraudulent medical certificates to their employers when they were never ill and/or never sought medical treatment at all.
Employers must verify the authenticity of the medical certificate
“The employer has the right to request that the original medical certificate be submitted to the employee,” said Roodt.
“Furthermore, the medical practitioner’s name, address, telephone number and practice number must appear on the medical certificate.
She said that the employee’s name must be clearly written and/or typed out.
It must also be clear on which date the employee first sought medical treatment, if the employee is deemed to be unfit for work, and when the employee will be able to return to work, she said.
“The employee’s illness does not have to be disclosed in full detail, but the employer must be able to determine from it that the employee is in fact not well enough to work.
“It is of paramount importance that the medical practitioner had signed the medical certificate. It is advisable that only medical certificates containing handwritten signatures must be accepted by employers.”
Roodt said that employers also have the right to contact the medical practitioner to determine if the employee had in fact seen the medical practitioner as was alleged by him/her.
“It is important that employers do not accept medical certificates that have been back-dated,” she said.
“If employees were unable to see a medical practitioner on their first day of becoming ill, they should indicate that, otherwise they may be guilty of being dishonest and/or of abusing their sick leave.
“Employees often make copies of authentic medical certificates and then change the dates and submit it to employers as authentic medical certificates.
“One way that employers can prevent this from happening is to always keep the original medical certificates on the employee’s personnel file and never to hand it back to the employee,” the legal expert said.
What if it’s a fake?
In the event that an employer has established that the medical certificate is fake, Roodt said that the employer must place the employee on paid suspension pending the disciplinary hearing and provide the employer with adequate time to finalise the investigation.
“The employee must then be given a charge sheet indicating that he/she has been charged with either falsifying their medical certificates and/or submitting inauthentic medical certificates,” she said.
“It is important to note that the employer will have to produce evidence at the disciplinary hearing confirming that the medical certificate is in fact inauthentic.
“This might also include requesting the medical practitioner to testify at the said hearing.
“Employers should furthermore take note that most medical practitioners are reluctant to testify at disciplinary hearings which would thus lead to the employer being unable to prove the employee’s guilt,” Roodt said.