This last year has seen employees take sick leave at unprecedented rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers who test positive, and those exposed to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, are forced to take days off, and this can use up a large chunk of their available leave. Many employers are wondering what to do if their staff has exhausted all their paid sick leave entitlement due to COVID-19 infection or exposure, and then request leave.
Legal experts at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr law firm who spoke with Business Tech point out that, in terms of the Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces, employees excluded from the workplace due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure will use their paid sick leave entitlements under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) during the period of absence. Once their sick leave is exhausted they are then entitled to apply for illness benefits in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act.
“Missing work due to COVID-19 exposure, the effects of long COVID, or any other health ailment may result in employees’ extended absence from the workplace,” said Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. “Employers may be tempted to refuse annual leave requests from employees who have been absent from work due to ill health and who have exhausted their sick leave entitlement under the BCEA,” he continued.
However, Hofmeyr noted that it is not fair to select which employees may or may not enjoy their annual leave entitlements on the basis of health or on the basis that they have exhausted their sick leave entitlement. This is because the entitlement to annual leave is distinct from the entitlement to sick leave. Additionally, the BCEA states that employees are allocated a minimum number of days annual leave a year.
“Notwithstanding the importance of annual leave, it remains reasonable and lawful for an employer to refuse an employee’s leave application based on its operational needs, such as where the timing of the leave will have a detrimental effect on the business, or if the business is short-staffed at the time,” said Hofmeyr.
The question is, how do you keep track of how many days of sick leave and how many days of other leave does a worker have? Many companies are tracking this manually but it is causing a number of errors that can prove to be costly. An online leave management system, like LeavePro, will be able to prevent these errors by tracking the entire leave process, which includes how many days off an employee has taken. Additionally, an online leave management system ensures you are compliant with the BCEA, which is essential for any business.
LeavePro combines these, and various other features, to make the leave management process simple and easy. If you want to try it out, we are offering a 30-day free trial to give you the full experience of what LeavePro has to offer. You can also book a demo if you want to learn more about the system.