A debilitating disease or disorder often has the power to disrupt many vital aspects of your life, including your career.

A reader was recently diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder, and has been booked off from work for four weeks. Her boss, however, wasn’t very pleased. But, does he have grounds to fire her?

According to our Careers and Money expert, Proferssor Karel van der Molen, this is often a difficult situation for both the employee and employer.

“On the one hand, the employee cannot help being ill, while on the other, an employer has a business that must function optimally and needs to have all the employees on hand to deal with the day-to-day activities.”

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, there are a few things you can do:

1.    Find out whether there is a sick leave policy within the organisation.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 states that everyone (bar for specific employees) is entitled to 30 days in a three-year period. Many organisations have a sick leave policy which affords the employee more sick leave days than the legislated period.

2.    Be precise
Often the employer may call for a report from the employee’s doctor – but this must be done with the permission of the employee. This is done to enable the employer and employee to review the situation and then to make such future plans as may be appropriate in the circumstances.

But, when it comes to losing your job for being sick the simple answer is NO. 

There are specific procedures that must be followed in matters of this nature, given the sensitivity of the situation, says Professor Van der Molen.

“One hopes that it will not come to this . And an in-depth discussion with your doctor and your employer should hopefully allow for enough “space” for the situation to resolve itself.”

Remember, if there is ever any action that is unilaterally taken against you, you should immediately consult a labour lawyer in your area.

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