SICK LETTERS OR FAKE LETTERS?

A4_bThis article deals with medical certificates and whether or not an employee is justified in taking the day off for an “illness”.

Angela informed her employer on Monday morning that she would be staying at home as she felt very sick and was unable to do her work in her condition. Angela only decided on Wednesday that she would go to the doctor because she knew she would be returning to work on Thursday, and therefore needed a medical certificate from the doctor so that her work would not deduct the money from her salary. However, Angela had a surprise waiting for her.

In terms of Rule 15(1) of the Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa a practitioner shall only grant a certificate of illness if such certificate contains the following information:

  • the name, address and qualification of the practitioner;
  • the name of the patient;
  • the employment number of the patient (if applicable);
  • the date and time of the examination;
  • whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds;
  • a description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology, with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit to work;
  • whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation;
  • the exact period of recommended sick leave;
  • the date of issuing of the certificate of illness; and
  • a clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate which shall be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.

If preprinted stationery is used, a practitioner shall delete words which are irrelevant. A practitioner shall issue a brief factual report to a patient where such a patient requires information concerning himself/herself.

The above is largely self-explanatory. Subrule (e) refers to those occasions where, for example, the employee has been off sick on Monday and Tuesday and then on Wednesday he goes to the doctor and informs the doctor that he has had flu since Monday and requires a sick note. The doctor is then required to write in the sick note, “I was informed by the patient that …”

An employer does not have to accept this as a genuine illness. The doctor is only telling you that the patient says he was ill. The doctor is not certifying that he made an examination and is able to confirm the illness. You would therefore be perfectly justified in informing the employee that the time taken off will be regarded as unpaid leave and that in future he should visit the doctor when he falls ill and not after he has recovered from the alleged illness.

Unfortunately for Angela her employer recently read an article informing him of his rights to deduct money from her salary because she failed to come to work on Monday and Tuesday and only went to see the doctor on Wednesday, and there was no way of ascertaining that she definitely was ill on those days.

In light of the above it would be wise for employees to see the doctor on the same day that they feel ill, and for employers to insist on seeing the medical certificate and examining it properly.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

IS IT BENEFICIAL TO CREATE A TRUST?

A3_bA Trust can be described as a legal relationship which has been created by the founder, who places assets under the control of Trustees. This either happens during the founder’s lifetime (inter vivos trust) or at the death of the founder (testamentary trust). This article will focus on the advantages and disadvantages of an inter vivos trust.

The advantage of a trust is firstly, that inter vivos trusts can be used to minimise estate duty. No estate duty should be payable on assets owned by the Trust as a Trust does not terminate or come to an end, since it has perpetual succession. Estate duty is currently taxed at 20% of the gross estate value. This saving in estate duty can be substantially large, especially for high net worth individuals who are worth millions of rands. Secondly, as the Trust’s assets are not owned by the beneficiaries, the creditors of the beneficiaries do not have a claim regarding the assets of the Trust. This advantage is especially important for people who are exposed to potential liability. Companies as well as individuals are able to transfer assets to Trusts. Lastly, because Trusts have perpetual succession, beneficiaries will be able to continue enjoying the benefit of the Trust assets even if one of the Trustees were to pass away.

The disadvantages are firstly, the costs of setting up a Trust, which can be high. It may cost up to R 20 000 to set up a Trust. If immovable property is transferred to the Trust then transfer duty needs to be paid. The founders of the Trust may also be liable to pay Donations tax, which is taxable at 20% of the value of the assets transferred to the Trust. Transfer duty is taxed according to a sliding scale. Secondly, Trustees could find themselves personally liable for losses suffered by the Trust if it can be proven that they did not act with care, diligence and skill in terms of section 9 of the Trust Property Control Act. It is important to note that “skill” requires more than just acting in good faith. Trustees may be proven to be negligent not only if they invested in risky investments, but also if they invested capital too conservatively, causing the capital not to grow sufficiently. Trustees also need to be aware of the fact that they can still be held liable if only one Trustee has signing power on behalf of the Trust and he/she makes a poor decision that holds all the Trustees liable for his negligence.

The founder of the Trust needs to recognise that the assets in the Trust do not belong to him/her anymore. The assets belong to the Trust. Should this loss of control (from founder to Trust) not occur, the Trust may be seen as an alter ego of the founder, which could result in the assets being included in creditors’ claims as well as having estate duty consequences.

The earnings from the assets in the Trust are taxed at 40%, and interest exemptions do not apply to Trusts. Also, the inclusion rate for Capital Gains tax for an inter vivos trust is 66.6% whereas the inclusion rate for individuals is 33.3%. Lastly, as we can see from the above, a Trust is not for everyone.

It is important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether to go ahead or not. The best decision would be to speak to a certified financial planner or attorney who can assist you in making the correct decision regarding your personal situation.

 This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

THE SEQUESTRATION PROCESS

A2_bThe sequestration process involves a Court Application. The Applicant in the Application is either yourself for your own sequestration (voluntary surrender) or the Applicant is one of your creditors (either a friendly or aggressive creditor). The applications are similar and although there are some different requirements for each, the result is the same.

Voluntary surrender

Voluntary surrender refers to the process whereby a natural person can make an application to place him/herself under an order for sequestration.

A person is insolvent if his/her liabilities exceed his/her assets. In such a case he/she can apply for voluntary surrender of their estate. Anybody can apply for voluntary surrender at any stage as soon as he/she is insolvent, even if they have been or are under debt counselling, for example.

The person who wants to sequestrate him/herself, will depose to an Affidavit which explains why he/she claims he/she is insolvent. This will be drafted by the Attorneys who will bring the application on behalf of the Applicant. As soon as the Affidavit is signed, the application will be issued at Court and a Court date is assigned. The Applicant does not have to appear in Court as the Advocate appears on his/her behalf.

If the Court grants a provisional order on the first Court date, the matter will be postponed for approximately one month. During that month notice will be given to all creditors, and if on the return date no-one has opposed the application, the order will be finalised and the Applicant’s estate will be sequestrated.

Compulsory sequestration

Applications are also made by way of a Court application; however, in this case the Applicant will be a creditor of the debtor. If it is a creditor with whom the debtor does not have a good relationship, we refer to it as an “aggressive” sequestration (for example the bank).

However, the banks seldom bring sequestration applications against the average debtor as it is much cheaper and easier for them to follow the collection procedures: attach property and sell it and/or attach your salary.

If it is a creditor with whom the debtor has a good relationship, we refer to it as a “friendly” sequestration (for example a family member or a friend to whom you owe money).

Aggressive (“unfriendly”) sequestration

Where an unfriendly creditor brings a sequestration application against a debtor, we refer to it as an aggressive sequestration. It is also a forced sequestration as opposed to voluntary surrender.

The creditor who brings the application must have established a claim against the debtor; in other words, the debtor must indeed owe the creditor money. A second requirement is that there must also be a benefit to creditors. Thirdly, the debtor must have committed an act of insolvency.

If a creditor brings an aggressive application against a debtor, the debtor can oppose such an application if he/she is not insolvent or if there is another reason why the order should not be granted.

Process for “unfriendly” and “friendly” sequestrations

The process for both these applications is the same and it is only the Applicant that differs.

As with voluntary surrender, an Affidavit will be given by the creditor to explain why he avows that the debtor owes him/her money. He will attach proof thereof (contract/statement) and also proof that the debtor has committed an act of insolvency (where the debtor has written a letter to say that he/she cannot pay the debt). In both instances the Applicant must prove that there will be a benefit to creditors to have the debtor sequestrated.

Once the Affidavit has been signed, the necessary documentation will be drafted, issued at Court and a Court date assigned. As soon as this is done, the documents will be served on the debtor, employees of the debtor, Master of the High Court and the South African Revenue Services by the Sheriff. The provisional order should also be given to all creditors above R5 000.00 by way of registered post. If the application is not opposed, a final order will be made for the sequestration of the debtor/Applicant.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

 

IS SJEBEENS WETTIG?

A1_bOns weet almal van sjebeens, tog is dit ‘n digbewaarde geheim omdat dit as ‘n onwettige besigheid beskou word. Ons bespreek sjebeens en wat dit behels hieronder.

Sjebeens was township kroeë en kantiens wat hul ontstaan tydens Apartheid gehad het toe die Drankwet van 1927 Swartmense en Indiërs verbied het om alkohol te verkoop of gelisensieerde persele te betree. Ten einde ‘n inkomste te verdien, het baie Swart vroue hul gewend tot hul vroeëre vaardighede as bierbrouers. Die vroue, wat bekend geword het as “sjebeen queens”, het bier gebrou en aan trekarbeiders verkoop wat nie die westerse bier kon bekostig nie, of wat steeds die tradisionele bantoebier1 verkies het.

 In 2015 bestaan sjebeens nog steeds; die sensasie daarom het egter heelwat afgeneem sedert Apartheid in 1994 tot ‘n einde gekom het en almal toegelaat is om gelisensieerde persele te betree. Dit is ook minder in die kollig noudat dit nie meer onwettig is om ‘n sjebeen te besit of daar te werk nie, solank die eienaar om ‘n lisensie aansoek doen en slegs alkohol verkoop wat wettiglik vervaardig en aan die publiek voorsien mag word.

Die Drankwet van 1989 stipuleer dat geen persoon enige konkoksie wat vervaardig is deur die fermentasie van melasse, suiker of ander bestanddele bekend as isityimiyana, hopana, qediviki, skokiaan, uhali of barberton, enige konkoksie soortgelyk daaraan of enige drankie wat van een van hierdie konkoksies gedistilleer word, mag vervaardig, besit, verbruik, verkoop, voorsien of gee aan ‘n ander persoon nie.

Dit is onwettig om alkohol te verkoop tensy u ‘n dranklisensie het wat deur die Drankraad toegestaan is. Daar is twee soorte lisensies:

  • ‘n “Binneverbruik” lisensie wat die verkoop en verbruik van alkohol op gelisensieerde persele toestaan. Hierdie soort lisensie word normaalweg aan hotelle, klubs, teaters en restaurante toegestaan. Tydelike lisensies mag ook uitgereik word om die verkoop en verbruik van alkohol by byvoorbeeld sportbyeenkomste of kermisse toe te laat. ‘n Geleentheidslisensie stel ‘n lisensiehouer in staat om alkohol na besigheidsure te verkoop.
  • ‘n “Buiteverbruik” lisensie laat die verkoop van alkohol toe wat weg van die perseel verbruik sal word. Voorbeelde van sulke persele is winkels, alkoholprodusente en drankwinkels.

Oor die algemeen sal ‘n lisensie nie toegestaan word aan enigiemand wat in die 10 jaar voor die aansoek om ‘n lisensie tronkstraf ontvang het sonder die keuse van ‘n boete nie. Oortredings van die Drankwet mag ‘n persoon ook diskwalifiseer van die verkryging van ‘n lisensie. In beide gevalle mag ‘n lisensie egter toegestaan word indien die betrokke gesagsliggaam reken dat die oortredings die aansoeker nie ongeskik maak om ‘n lisensie te besit nie.

Die Drankwet 59 van 2003 herroep die Wet van 1989 slegs in daardie provinsies wat provinsiale drankwetgewing gepromulgeer het (huidiglik Oos-Kaap en Gauteng).

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies. (E&OE)