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Disability
Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - 02:16
Protecting your income

“You need to protect yourself in case of serious illness,” avers Schalk Malan Executive Director of BrightRock. “It’s not a topic that most of us like to think about.”

But what would happen if you were sick for an extended period and you were unable to work. Would your company pay you for that period? Would you get laid-off your job? What are your rights as an employee? Luckily, South Africa has one of the most comprehensive and clearest labour laws in the world which protect the rights of employees.

What if you become seriously ill?

The laws surrounding sick leave, as laid out by the Department of Labour, are pretty clear although your employer is allowed to add to those days should they wish. Sick leave works in a three-year cycle. You’re allowed to take one day of paid sick leave for every 26 days worked in the first six months of employment and after that you can take the number of days you work in a six week period for every three-year cycle. What this means is that if you work six days a weeks, you can take up to 36 days of paid sick leave every three years. Employers have the right to ask for proof of illness if they are paying you for sick leave. Says Malan, “Note that sick leave rules don’t apply to workers who work less than 24 hours a month and workers who receive compensation for an occupational injury or disease.”

What if you have used all your paid sick leave days?

“This is where things get complicated,” says Malan. Employers aren’t obliged to pay you after you’ve used-up your sick leave days. You can use your normal leave days in case you get seriously ill as well, but those can run out pretty quickly if you’re booked off work for months at a time. Employers are obliged by Schedule 8 of Labour Relations Act to do their best to accommodate their workers if they can’t work for a long period of time because of illness. However, because they’re not required to pay you after you’ve used up your paid sick leave days, this leaves a lot of workers in a financially vulnerable state because they might not earn an income for months.

What can you do to protect yourself?

“The good news is that you have a number options available to you should you find yourself unable to work because of an illness,” explains Malan. “Firstly you can save a portion of your salary each month for emergencies such as medical emergencies. You can also claim from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) if you become seriously ill. While both of these are good options, they’re still likely to leave you financially vulnerable as the UIF won’t pay you your full salary and it would take a long time to save enough money to keep you afloat.”
The third option is to get income protection cover, which could pay you up to 100% of your salary for up to 36 months for temporary illnesses or injuries. It’s very important to shop around for not only the most cost effective cover, but the most appropriate cover for your needs as well. Not all insurance providers offer the same level of cover – this is why it’s preferable to get a financial adviser who can help you get the best cover possible. But whatever decision you make, it’s important to make sure that you and your family are adequately protected in case you get seriously ill and can’t provide for them.
 

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:28.4 1st April, 2015
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