The Employee’s Rights- Part V
So far, the four (4) articles dealing with employee’s rights under the Labour Code have addressed general protections for the employee with penalties for breach of the rights creating those protections, hours of work of employees, annual (vacation) leave and maternity leave.
In this week’s article, we will look at the other types of leave provided for under the Employment Act – Sick Leave & Family Leave.
It is important to recall that what is set out in the Act are minimum standards, and that employees and employers, either directly or through collective bargaining, can agree to better terms.
The sick leave entitlement provided under the Employment Act may come as a surprise to most employees as it is less generous than the practice and union agreements across both the public and private sectors.
There is no automatic entitlement to any days off every month or year on account of illness, and there is no entitlement to a specified number of days off without a medical certificate.
The Employment Act says that:
(1). After 12 months of continuous service, an employee is entitled to paid sick leave upon production by a registered medical practitioner;
(2). The medical certificate needs to state the nature of the illness and the length of time during which the employee is expected to be unable to attend work;
(3). He/she is only entitled to be paid in wages by the employer the difference between his/her ordinary wage and the amount he/she is entitled to from NIS. While the Act does not spell this out, implicit is that where an employer pays the employee full wages, the employer is entitled to be refunded when the employee receives his/her NIS payment;
(4). If an employee is absent from work on account of illness for more than five (5) separate occasions in one (1) year, the employee is not entitled to wages from his employer; and
(5). Where the illness requires the employee to be absent from work for more than two (2) months, the employer is entitled to require the employee to be attended by a medical practitioner of its choice, at its expense, to decide whether any further sick leave would be granted to the employee.
The Employment Act contemplates that employers and employees can agree to periods of time for leave in addition to maternity, vacation and sick leave, those being on grounds of family responsibilities. The definition of family responsibilities in the Act is not exhaustive but rather illustrative. The circumstances expressly given as examples are: sickness or death of spouse and sickness or death of a close relative or a dependant person.
The Act does not specify whether the leave under this heading is to be paid or unpaid, and as such, one would expect reason to prevail between employer and employee.
Requests for leave which can be justified under the above heading cannot be unreasonably refused by the employer.
(The above was submitted by the Grenada Bar Association)