What constitutes a valid medical certificate?

A point of aggravation in any place of employment is the abuse of sick leave by employees.  In order to prevent such abuse, an employer must have regard to the requirements of a valid medical certificate as prescribed by the Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa read together with Section 23 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Act 75 of 1997.

The employer must determine the following:

1. Does the medical certificate state that the employee was unable to perform his or her normal duties as a result of illness or injury; and

2. Is the medical certificate based on the professional opinion of the medical practitioner?

The employer must note that sick leave is only for when the employee is medically unfit to perform his or her normal duties.  Therefore when an employee takes leave to attend to check-ups and / or examinations it will not qualify as sick leave as the employee is still able to perform his or her normal duties.
The medical certificate must be issued by a medical practitioner and therefore a medical certificate issued after an examination by a nurse or other person who is not qualified to carry out examination and diagnosis is not a valid medical certificate.  

Should the employer doubt the validity of the medical certificate produced by an employee, we advise you to contact the Health Professions Council of South Africa or the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa and to enquire whether the practice number is registered and confirm the details of the practitioner it is linked to.

Medical Certificates which are illegible or that have been altered may be rejected by the employer.  

There is a misconception that an employer is not entitled to contact the medical practitioner due to doctor and patient privilege.  The moment that the employee submits the medical certificate as proof of his / her absence due to sickness or injury, the medical certificate is excluded from the ambit of what is constituted as information which is privileged.  The employer may contact the relevant medical practitioner and enquire whether he / she issued such a medical certificate.

The abuse of sick leave or the alteration of medical certificates constitutes gross dishonesty which is a dismissible offence.  

Relevant contact details:

Health Professions Council of South Africa – www.hpcsa.co.za / 012 338 9300
Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa – www.ahpcsa.co.za / 012 349 2331

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