sick note

A case of sick leave abuse recently made its way to the Labour Appeal Court. Image: Pixabay

Ever faked a sick note at work? What could happen if you’re caught

South Africa is experiencing a surge in the abuse of ‘sick notes’, which is happening in both the public and private sectors.

sick note

A case of sick leave abuse recently made its way to the Labour Appeal Court. Image: Pixabay

The abuse of sick notes is on the rise in South Africa, and employers are having none of it.

A number of labour court cases have highlighted that handing an employer a forged sick note constitutes fraud. This is valid grounds for dismissal, writes BusinessTech.

A recent case of sick leave abuse found its way to the Labour Appeal Court. The court ruled that employers are justified in their zero-tolerance stance on dishonesty.

“Employees who lie about being sick, and forge medical certificates will likely have a bitter pill to swallow when their actions are revealed,” said legal experts at Baker McKenzie.

A recent case

A recent Labour Appeal Court judgment in the case of 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,” Baker McKenzie’s experts said.

These actions – forging a sick note and providing it to one’s employers – serves as a fair reason for dismissal.

The May judgment reviewed evidence where employees submitted fraudulent medical certificates and received pay for days they did not work.

The ruling

An investigation uncovered that the employees did not actually visit a specific medical facility as indicated on their medical certificates.

The certificates were also signed by an unidentified individual where initials, surnames and practice numbers were missing.

The section in the case evaluation read as follows:

[13] This was so in that the facts showed that the employees had submitted fraudulent sick notes and received pay for days they did not work as a result. Their sick notes were purportedly issued by Platinum Health but stamped at the RPM Hospital. The investigation revealed that the employees did not visit Platinum Health as recorded in the medical certificates. The certificates were signed by the same unknown person without her/his initials or surname and none of them had a serial number. The employees submitted the certificates with one motive, namely to deceive the appellant in circumstances in which the appellant has a zero-tolerance approach in as far as dishonesty and fraud. The misconduct committed by the employees was of a serious nature and was grossly dishonest. Such conduct patently undermined the trust relationship between the parties.

“The Appeal Court concluded that the employees submitted the medical certificates with the single intention of deceiving their employer,” the legal experts added.

The court thus upheld the employer’s zero-tolerance policy towards dishonesty and fraud. It emphasised the damage these actions have on the mutual trust between employers and employees.

The court also highlighted its negative impact in the workplace.

Zero sympathy from employers

Baker McKenzie’s experts said the same policy would be applied to dishonest time-keeping practices. Employees would also risk losing their jobs if they lie about attendance or seek unjustified overtime.

“Employees who are dismissed for dishonesty related to purported sickness should expect no sympathy from the employment tribunal or Labour Court,” they concluded.