According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (“BCEA”), in order for a medical certificate to be valid it must state that the employee is unable to work, for the duration of the absence, on account of illness or injury. It further states that the medical certificate must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner that is registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament.
However, what Section 22 of the BCEA doesn’t confirm, is whether or not a valid medical certificate must state the nature of the employee’s illness.
Practically, an employer would want to know exactly what is wrong with one of its employees.
The Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa sheds some light on this point.
According to Rule 15(1) of its Rules, a medical practitioner shall only provide a certificate of illness if such certificate contains the following information, namely:
- the name, address and qualification of the practitioner;
- the name of the patient;
- the employment number of the patient (if applicable);
- the date and time of the examination;
- whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds;
- a description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology, with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit to work;
- whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation;
- the exact period of recommended sick leave;
- the date of issuing of the certificate of illness; and
- a clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate which shall be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.
From the above it is clear, that the description of the illness will only be presented on the medical certificate if the employee gives consent thereto.
In conclusion, we urge the employer to consider the above list in order to establish whether a medical certificate is valid.