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Hold an incapacity hearing to check if your sick employee can still perform the job he was hired for

by , 20 February 2013
Sick leave abuse is hard to prove. After all, employees are often well prepared with sick notes when they return to work. But what if your employee suddenly becomes too sick to do the job he was hired for? There are four factors to consider if you hold an incapacity hearing for a sick employee.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez returned to the country on Monday, more than two months after having cancer surgery in Cuba, says the New York Times.

But Chávez isn't back in the office yet – he's been instilled on the top floor of the military hospital.
And there's speculation that he might not return at all, if his ill health continues.
Opposition leaders say that a man who is too sick to appear or speak to the nation can't be capable of leading, as it's part of his job.
So there's talk of elections being held soon.

But what do you do if your sick employee's sudden ill health means he can't perform the job he was hired for?

Sick leave is a tricky subject, especially if an employee has disclosed that he's going to need lots of time off for medical treatment.
Besides, all sick employees are entitled to sick leave, as prescribed in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. But all employers are also entitled to full employee performance in terms of the job he was hired for, says Janine Nieuwoudt in the Labour Bulletin.

Here's how to tell if your sick employee can still perform the job he was hired for

So if an employee is off for three days or longer or if you suspect misuse of sick leave, you're within your rights to request the employee to furnish a doctor's note from a registered medical practitioner.
 
Then, if your employee's pattern of sick leave usage increases, you're within your rights to request the employee to undergo a medical assessment at a qualified medical practitioner of your choosing.
This will be at the company's expense, to determine whether the sick employee is still fit to do the job he was hired for, says Nieuwoudt.
If the outcome shows your sick employee's unfit to do the job he was hired for, you'll need to follow an incapacity hearing process.

Four factors to consider if you hold an incapacity hearing for a sick employee

As circumstances differ vastly, you'll need to consider the following four factors as part of the incapacity hearing, says the UKZN Labour Relations website:
 
1. What is the nature of the sick employee's job?
2. How long is the sick employee likely to be absent?
3. How serious is the incapacity?
4. Is there a possibility the sick employee can be temporarily replaced?
 
Use the above factors to determine whether your sick employee's illness makes it unlikely that he can continue to work as before.
If this is the case, you'll need to help the sick employee stay in employment if possible or have him medically boarded and start looking for someone to replace him right away.


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