Stretching the sick leave

When you are first diagnosed with breast cancer it is a huge emotional shock for you and your family. If you have a caring family GP they may be tempted to book you off for a few weeks to recover from the shock and to go for further tests and doctors appointments related to your breast cancer. From their point of view they are doing the caring thing but it is a really bad idea!!

Your sick leave will be devoured quickly enough without adding this extra burden to it. Do take a day or two off to get over the shock but then get back to work as soon as possible. This will also reassure your employer that you are still an asset to the company and an employee they can depend upon.

When you have to go for tests and procedures tell the person making the booking that you work and that they must please make the appointment first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon or during your lunch time.  By structuring your appointments in this way you will not need to eat in to your sick leave as most bosses will gladly let you arrive at work a bit late or leave a little early if you promise to work the time in during your lunch hour.


Employees who work more than 24 hours a month have a sick leave entitlement. Sick leave entitlements are based on the date you joined the firm and are calculated over 36 months. If you work a five-day week you are entitled to 30 days of paid sick leave in every 36 month sick leave cycle. If you work a six-day week you are entitled to 36 days paid sick leave in every 36 month sick leave cycle.

After completing six months of employment you are entitled to a minimum of five days sick leave. On the first working day of month seven the balance of the 30 days becomes available to you, less any days taken sick during your first six months of employment.

Double check with your HR department to find out how much sick leave you have available to you. Also find out when your next sick leave cycle is beginning. It is possible that the second half of your treatment may fall into a new cycle.

30 days sick leave may sound like a lot but it is chomped up during the course of your treatment at an alarming rate. A relatively small procedure such as a sentinel node biopsy (to see if the cancer has spread) is not a big operation but it does affect your arms and your ability to drive. You will also be sent home with a drain in your breast / arm and it is advisable that you stay at home (and away from the steering wheel) until the drain is removed. That will take care of at least five to ten days of sick leave and it is not even the “big” operation.

Getting Clever

When possible book operations for a Thursday or a Friday – that way you will have the weekend to recover and use up less sick leave. The chaos of April 2011 is finally behind us. If you had scheduled your surgery for April 20th you could have gone back to work May 3rd and it would only have cost you five days of sick leave!

Sick Notes

Employees may be asked for a medical certificate if they have been absent from work for more than two days in a row or more than twice in eight weeks. If you do not have a certificate your employer does not have to pay you!

Medical certificates must be issued and signed by a medical practitioner or person certified to diagnose and treat patients who is registered with a professional council. According to, medical certificates issued by traditional healers, sangomas etc are not presently accepted.

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