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Police arrest fake sick-note doctor! Make sure your company hasn't been duped with invalid medical certificates!

by , 24 October 2013
According to an eNCA report, dozens of companies in Gauteng could unwittingly have been duped by an alleged scammer from Tembisa. The woman, who isn't a medical doctor, has been selling fraudulent medical certificates from her shack, booking employees off work. But, it all came to an abrupt end on Tuesday morning after police confiscated books containing medical certificates, doctors' stamps and cellphones. As an employer, this case highlights the importance of checking the validity of medical certificates. Here's what you should know about medical certificates.

eNCA reports that a company that received one of the falsified medical certificates became suspicious and enlisted the help of a private forensic company. An undercover agent then went to the woman's house last Thursday and bought a sick note. The accused allegedly charged for the fraudulent medical certificates, based on how long her clients wanted off from work.

Forensic expert Peet Labuschagne says, 'the companies are defrauded, their people are giving in false certificates and the employees are getting paid for that, and the companies are losing money.'

While the eNCA states that 'it's unclear whether the books and stamps have been stolen or falsified, it's estimated at least 1,172 sick notes have been issued from the confiscated books.'

That's quite scary.

If you don't scrutinise your employee's medical certificates, your business could be found wanting.

In fact, the Labour Guide says the abuse of sick leave costs employers millions if not billions of rands every year in South Africa.

But there's a simple way to address this:

'Go back to basics and determine whether a medical certificate is a valid certificate that would justify the payment of the employee from his or her sick leave entitlement,' says the Labour Guide.

Here's how to ensure your employee's medical certificate is valid

For starters, labour law is on your side. You're entitled to check the validity of medical certificates.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service recommends you phone the doctor involved to verify the authenticity.

One word of caution: You're not allowed to ask the doctor for any details about your employee's illness without the employee's consent.

For purposes of paid sick leave where an employee is absent for more than two consecutive days, the medical certificate must state that the employee is unable to work due to illness.

The certificate doesn't have to state what the illness is. You can't force the doctor to reveal details of the illness without your employee's consent.

That would be beyond what's stipulated in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and could infringe doctor/patient confidentiality.

You can query the certificate if it doesn't state that the employee's unable to work for a specified period.

Are medical notes from traditional healers acceptable?

NO, they're not.

The BCEA states that medical certificates must be issued by:

  • A medical practitioner; or
  • Any person who is certified and registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament.

To ensure the certificate is valid, ask your employee to find out which council the doctor is registered with.

Sick leave abuse is rife in South African companies; make sure you check the validity of your employee's medical certificates.

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