“It is essential for an employment relationship to be built on trust” (Quotation from the court’s ruling)

Once again, our courts have reaffirmed that firing an employee is justifiable when they resort to falsehoods regarding their health to secure sick leave. A recent case in the Labour Court serves as a prime example.

Claiming severe illness but appearing on television at a protest march:

•             An employee called in sick for a few days, and to support his claim of illness produced a medical certificate of sorts (albeit a meaningless one, certifying the nature of illness as being “Absence due to medical condition”).

•             Unluckily for the employee, his supervisor happened to be watching the evening news on TV and what did he see on the screen but his “too ill to work” subordinate participating in a protest march, singing and clapping his hands.

•             Long story short, the Labour Court upheld his dismissal for “gross dishonesty” in breach of the trust relationship that underlies all employer/employee interactions.

•             In doing so the Court found on the facts that the employee had clearly been malingering in order to attend the protest, noting that an employee claiming to be too ill to work must prove it. In that regard the supposed medical certificate just didn’t cut it without being confirmed on affidavit.

Important takeaways for employees (and their employers)

•             Falsely claiming sick leave fundamentally breaches the employer/employee trust relationship and in appropriate cases our courts will not hesitate to uphold dismissal even for a first offence.

•             If queried, it is for the employee to prove that an illness genuinely prevented attendance at work.

•             A sick note or medical certificate should be meaningful as to the nature of that illness and the issuing medical practitioner may have to confirm its contents in an affidavit or under oath.

For professional legal advice, contact Tracey Mouton at Goldberg & de Villiers Inc. on 041-5019800 |traceym@goldlaw.co.za


Credit: LawDotNews

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