1. What's deemed a valid sick note
If the sick note your employee has submitted is valid, it will state the following:
• The employee was unable to perform his or her normal duties because of illness (or an injury); and
• This diagnosis is based on the professional opinion of the medical practitioner.
2. What's deemed an invalid sick note
A certificate which states that the practitioner 'saw the patient' or 'was informed by the patient' is NOT considered to be a valid sick note. This is because the practitioner did not declare, in his professional opinion, that the employee was unable to perform normal duties because of illness (or an injury). Certificates like this only tell you that the practitioner saw the patient, e.g. for a check-up, but does not say that he diagnosed him with anything.
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3. Who the sick note has to be issued by
There are four types of medical practitioners who can issue valid sick note. They are:
• Doctors with an MBChB degree who is registered with the Health
• Professions Council of South Africa;
• Dentists who are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa; Psychologists with a Masters degree in research, counselling or clinical psychology who is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa; and
• Any other medical practitioner registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
4. What the sick note must contain
If the sick note is missing any of the following information, you can deem it unacceptable:
• The name and the qualifications of the person issuing the certificate;
• His or her contact number and physical address;
• A proper practice or registration number;
• Words to the effect that 'I have examined (name), and find him/her to be unfit for work for a period of (date/s)'. The medical practitioner does not have to give a diagnosis because of doctor/patient privilege;
• The date of the examination; and
• The signature of the practitioner.
Remember: The sick note must be an original document and it must be legible.
If you believe the sick note your employee submitted is 'phoney', you can't just toss it and deem it fake. So in a case like this, I can recommend you give your employee a warning that next time he submits a sick note after taking time off, you'll be checking that it's legitimate.