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Company leave regulations

Overview

Leave” is always a condition of employment that is widely discussed and considered when a new recruit is taking into account signing on with a new employer. It is also often a subject that companies/organizations fail to discuss or cater for at the required level of detail when planning budgets.

Getting it right is a fine acrobatic balance between ensuring that the company/organization can afford the leave that is extended, whilst still ensuring employee satisfaction and well-being.

There are a number of leave considerations a company/organization must prepare for; some can be quite expensive in their own right (either loss of earnings or output for the company/organization as well as the cost of hiring temporary staff or paying overtime to existing staff who are required to pick up the slack).

Legislation also stipulates a number of important considerations around certain leave types and these must be well thought-out when preparing and finalizing a company/organizations’ leave policy.

Organizations need to take heed of the labor requirements, but also incorporate their company culture and values when putting their leave policy together.

A simple change to the leave policy can move an organization to being an employer of choice, and it is common knowledge that happy, well rested staff are often more productive. Offering too much “rest” can also result in unproductive and de-motivated staff. In order for an organization to get the balance right, an evaluation of the industry standards and competitor offerings need to be equally weighed up against the organizations financial situation and the culture that is being nurtured.

Legislative guidelines

Annual Leave

An employee is entitled to 15 working days per annum on full pay. The Act stipulates“21 consecutive days” (section 20 (2) (a) of the Act) and reference to a calendar will show that 21 consecutive days is 15 working days based on a 5 day week, or 18 working days based on a 6 day week. Public holidays which fall within a period of annual leave are additional to the annual leave entitlement. There is nothing preventing organizations from providing for more than the minimum requirement, and additional days of leave could be used as incentives to join an organization or as a reward for good performance.

Maternity Leave

A pregnant employee is entitled by the Act to four months unpaid maternity leave.  The Act further stipulates that the maternity leave must commence not later than four weeks before the expected date of birth of the child and of the employee may not return to work for six weeks after the birth of the child.  When an employee is on maternity leave, the employment contract is not changed in any way at all - the employee is merely exercising her legal entitlement to four months unpaid leave. This means that the employment conditions and the requirement to fulfill a twelve-month leave cycle remain unchanged. Therefore the annual leave continues to accrue during the period of maternity leave. Once again, whilst organizations are not obliged to pay the employee during this leave period, policies to pay full or part salary can be written in order to support an employer of choice strategy.

Sick Leave

The Act stipulates that the sick leave cycle is a period of 36 months employment with the same employer immediately following the date of commencement of employment, or the completion of the prior sick leave cycle. During the first 6 months of employment, the employee is entitled to 1 day sick leave for every 26 days worked. On the first working day of month number 7, the balance of the 30 days becomes available to the employee, less any days taken sick during the first 6 months of employment.

At the end of every 3-year cycle, any sick leave remaining untaken or unused is forfeited, and the next cycle begins with a fresh balance of 30 days or 36 days as the case may be.

If an employee is absent on 3 consecutive working days or more, or is absent on more than 2 occasions (remember a Friday and a Monday is 2 separate occasions) during the same 8 week period, then the employer is entitled to demand proof of incapacity. If the proof is not produced as requested, then the employer is entitled to treat the days absent as unpaid leave. Proof of incapacity would normally be a medical certificate issued and signed by a medical practitioner or any other person who is entitled to diagnose and treat patients and who is registered with a professional council established by an Act of Parliament. Annual leave may not be substituted for sick leave and sick leave is in addition to any other leave entitlement. Sick leave, however, is not in addition to a period of notice of termination of the employment contract. 

Family Responsibility Leave

Employees who have been in employment with the same employer for more than 4 months and who work for the same employer for at least 4 days per week is entitled to 3 days Family Responsibility Leave full pay per annum, with the exception of Domestic employees whose entitlement is 5 days.  Family Responsibility Leave is in addition to any other leave entitlement and any unused portion lapses at the end of each year and is not accumulative. Family Responsibility Leave applies when the employees child is born, when the employees child is sick, or in the event of the death of the employee’s spouse or life partner, or the employee’s parent, adoptive parent, grandparent, child, adopted child, grandchild or sibling.

Study Leave

Labor legislation does not take a stand on study leave, therefore this arrangement is entirely between the employer and the employee, and if the employer stipulates that study leave must be deducted from the employees annual leave entitlement or be taken as unpaid leave, then that decision must apply.

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