Faking sick notes in South Africa – you’re committing fraud

 ·18 May 2024

South Africa has seen a boom in medical certificate abuse both in public and private sectors – with numerous labour court cases highlighting that forging a sick note and handing that to an employer constitutes serious misconduct.

It amounts to dishonesty and fraud and serves as a fair reason for dismissal.

This was outlined by legal experts at Baker McKenzie, Johan Botes and JJ van der Walt, who said that a recent case of sick leave abuse in South Africa that found its way to the Labor Appeal Court again confirmed that an employer’s zero-tolerance approach to dishonesty and fraud was correct.

Additionally, “employees who are dishonest in their timekeeping practices [lie about being sick, and forge medical certificates] will likely have a bitter pill to swallow when their actions are revealed,” said Botes and van der Walt.

The case

Botes and van der Walt said that a recent Labor Appeal Court (LAC) judgment, Sibanye Rustenburg Platinum Mine v. Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union obo Sono and Others “confirmed what most, if not everyone, accept as common sense.”

That was that forging a sick note and providing it to your employer constitutes serious misconduct as it amounts to dishonesty and fraud and serves as a fair reason for dismissal.

The judgment, handed down earlier in May, considered evidence of employees who submitted fraudulent medical certificates and received pay for days on which they did not work.

An investigation uncovered that the employees did not actually visit a specific medical facility as indicated in their medical certificates. The certificates were signed by an unidentified individual without their initials or surname, and did not include a practice number.

“The Appeal Court concluded that the employees submitted the medical certificates with the single intention of deceiving their employer,” said Botes and van der Walt.

The court upheld the employer’s zero-tolerance policy on dishonesty and fraud, emphasizing that such actions severely damaged the trust between the employer and employees.

Legal commentary

“There can be little if any, doubt as to the negative impact of dishonesty in the workplace. This holds true for dishonest timekeeping practices as well,” said the legal experts.

Botes and van der Walt note that employees risk losing their jobs if they deceitfully claim attendance, seek unjustified overtime, lie about being sick, or submit false medical certificates.

“Employees who are dismissed for dishonesty related to purported sickness should expect no sympathy from the employment tribunal or Labor Court,” said Botes and van der Walt.

Read: Blocking people from jobs based on criminal records in South Africa – what bosses should know

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