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Zimbabwean employee resurfaces after 3 months with traditional healer's 'sick' note

by Staff reporter
06 Jan 2024 at 08:42hrs | Views
IN a curious turn of events, a security guard from the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) stationed in Hwange vanished without a trace, only to reappear after an astonishing 88 days. His return was as mysterious as his departure, bringing with him a traditional healer's note to explain his prolonged absence.

The guard, whose name remains confidential, reportedly left his company residence in Hwange out of discontent with his transfer to the coal mining town.

For nearly three months, his whereabouts were unknown to colleagues and management alike.

"No one knew where this guy was but his pay was getting through every month. He only surfaced on the 89th day armed with a traditional healer's sick leave," a source within NRZ disclosed.

The situation has left NRZ's management in a quandary, grappling with the unprecedented scenario of addressing a traditional healer's sick note and the implications of an employee's extended unexplained absence.

NRZ spokesperson, Andrew Kunambura stated his lack of awareness regarding the incident, leaving more questions than answers.

"I know nothing about that," said Kunambura.

Behind closed doors, the company has been wrestling with the decision to both accept the sick note and allow the guard to resume work or to take disciplinary action.

"It was difficult for the company to dismiss him when they had been paying him a full monthly salary and the fact that he surfaced on the 89th day, shows that the guy knows his labour rights. He just had to avoid coming after 90 days," the source added.

The case brings to light the complexities of labour laws, particularly Section 14 of the Labour Act, which stipulates conditions for sick leave entitlements.

Takudzwa Kufa, a human resources and business development specialist, elaborates on the requirements for the 90-day sick leave provision to apply, emphasising the necessity of a medical certificate from a registered practitioner.

"If you feel that certificate has been issued in doubtful circumstances, it is permissible to have that opinion seconded, at your expense. Doctors also tend to advise that the sick leave should be given ‘light duties'. This has no binding effect on an employer who is within his rights to say to the employee that either he is fit for the work that he was employed to do, or he must remain on sick leave until he is either fit to come to work or until he has exhausted his sick leave," notes Kufa.

Kufa further noted that an employee may claim he does not believe in modern medicine and so cannot provide a sick note.

However, he cannot use his religious beliefs, no matter how important they may be to him, to evade the requirement of the Labour Act.

"This employee has two choices, he can request sick leave supported by a registered traditional medical practitioner registered in terms of the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act. He can go off work and receive no pay for the time away, Section 12A(6)(a). With a large number of sick leave days available to an employee (7,5 calendar days per month on full pay), there may be instances where the employer may think an employee is abusing sick leave.

"It will always be difficult to prove abuse but an analysis of all leave should periodically be undertaken by HR personnel to see if there is a pattern emerging — for example, where an employee regularly attaches periods of sick leave to weekends, public holidays or periods immediately after pay days. In such circumstances, the employee should be asked to explain why there is this pattern in his sick leave and he should be informed that if the pattern continues, the company may be forced to consider whether some form of disciplinary action is appropriate," said Kufa.

Source - The Chronicle
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