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Medical Certificates

Medical Certificates

Most employers human resource policies require that ill employees supply medical certificates to the employer when they have been absent from work due to health reasons. One of the reasons why these policies deal with medical certificates is because some employees abuse their sick leave.Some employees go as far as supplying falsified medical certificates to their employers.

What Constitutes A Proper Medical Certificate? The Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Council of South Africa have introduced the following rules with regards to medical i. According to these rules a certificate must contain the following information:
  • The name, address, qualifications of the practitioner and practice number;
  • The name of the patient;
  • The employment number of the patient (if applicable);
  • The date and time of the examination;
  • Whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observation by the practitioner during an examination or as a result of the information received from the patient that is based on acceptable medical grounds;
  • A description of the medical grounds and confirmation from the practitioner that the practitioner is of the opinion that the patient is unfit for work;
  • Whether or not the patient is totally unable to work or if the patient can do less demanding work;
  • The exact period of recommended sick leave
  • The date of the issuing of the certificate
  • The identity of the practitioner must be clear.
What Can Employers Do If They Suspect The Employees Medical Certificate Is Fraudulent?

Employers must compare the certificate with the above mentioned rules and if the certificate does not comply in that the certificate, for example, does not clearly state the name of the practitioner, then the employer can insist that the certificate complies with these above mentioned rules before the employer accepts the certificate as a valid certificate.

If an employer thinks that the employee obtained a certificate in a dishonest or fraudulent manner, then the employer may proceed with disciplinary steps against the employee. It is normally easy to check whether a certificate was in fact issued by a doctor, as the company can just phone the doctor to confirm that the doctor issued the certificate.

In cases where an employee submits a medical certificate where the employer suspects that the doctor is colluding with the employee, the employer can report this doctor to the Health Professions Council (this will not be recommended if you have no evidence against the doctor).

Important Tip:
  1. If, on a regular basis, an employee claims he is sick; and you have evidence that his sickness was insufficient to cause him not to work; then the employer can proceed with disciplinary steps against the employee;
  2. Employers must ensure that they have a properly drafted leave policy in place;
  3. Employers cannot ask employees to take annual leave when they are on sick leave.

By: Martin Vermaak, (Senior Attorney)