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South Africa: What You Need to Know about Sick Leave


25 April 2023

Stephanie Taylor

It is not uncommon for employees to experience illness or desire a day off from work. However, it is essential to understand that sick leave is a statutory entitlement under the South African Employment Act, specifically under Sections 22(1) to 22(4). This provision mandates that employees are entitled to paid sick leave during each 36-month cycle. The number of sick leave days granted to employees is equivalent to the number of days they usually work in a typical 6-week period. For instance, employees who work five days per week are entitled to 30-day sick leave on full pay. Conversely, employees who work six days per week are entitled to 36-day ill leave on full pay. Throughout the three-year cycle, the average paid sick leave is approximately 10 to 12 days yearly.

However, it is crucial to note that employees are entitled to only one paid sick leave day for every 26 days worked during the first six months of employment. Any sick leave taken during this period is deducted from the 36-month entitlement. If an employee exhausts their ill leave entitlement at the beginning or during a cycle, they will not have any paid sick leave remaining for the remainder of the process. Any additional absence due to illness will be treated as unpaid leave. Employers may require proof of sickness, such as a doctor’s note, before granting paid sick leave.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act applies to all employees and workers in South Africa, except for specific categories, such as members of the National Defense Force, the National Intelligence Agency, and unpaid volunteers working for a charity. Workers who work less than 24 hours a month, receive compensation for an occupational injury or disease, and leave over and above that provided for by the Act are not covered by the provisions for sick leave.

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