POLICY AND PROCEDURE ON INCAPACITY LEAVE AND ILL-HEALTH RETIREMENT IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE
A Submission Prepared by the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU)
1 Marie Road, Auckland Park, Johannesburg, 2000
Tel: +27 11 242 4600;
Fax: +27 86 625 3054;
I would like to commence by acknowledging that Policy and Procedure on Incapacity Leave and Ill-Health Retirement (PILIR) have the potential of impacting positively on the management of sick leave trends in the public service; although it has thus far not provided meaningful strides as we anticipated. Since its implementation in 2006, application processes for incapacity leave and ill-health retirement has been plagued with numerous challenges which are most likely the same within the entire public sector. Hence we are of the view that this policy has failed to holistically meet its intended objective of addressing challenges and contributing to an improvement of sick leave management. The identified challenges emanating from the implementation of this policy are as follows:
Lack of knowledge and proper understanding of the policy: We have noted that some managers and employees within the public service lack appropriate understanding of what the policy in reference entails. This challenge impedes effective implementation and management of PILIR, resulting in inappropriate method of application. Subsequent to this challenge, there has been an increased number of grievances due to members’ dissatisfaction on the undesirable outcome of the application as an alternative of unpaid leave or deduction of vacation leave is applicable. At times, this alternative is unfairly applicable to members considering that it is actually the employer’s lack of proper understanding of the policy that might have negatively affected the outcome of the application.
Non-adherence to stipulated timeframes: PILIR clearly outlines the timeframes within which applications for incapacity leave should be processed. However, majority (if not all) of government departments do not adhere to the timeframe of processing applications as specified in PILIR. In most instances, applications take a period of several months idling in the employer’s office before it can be referred to the Health Risk Managers, resulting in even more delays in processing and finalising the application. A serious concern to us is the rate in which our members are being penalised upon the unacceptably extended processes of finalisation, adding to sequence of grievances which could have been avoided if the specified timeframes were adhered to. This challenge is even of a more serious concern in a scenario whereby a member end up losing his/her life whilst waiting for the outcome of the application as the policy does not provide any clear guidelines for such a leave under this circumstance.
Re-deployment of employees: PILIR makes a provision for re-deployment coupled with rehabilitation and retraining where necessary. Notwithstanding this fact, one could argue that the departments did not properly plan for this alternative option as quite often they are unable to find suitable posts to re-deploy employees whereas in some instances there are no financial resources to create posts to accommodate this arrangement. Moreover, at times the employer misuses this concept of re-deployment to frustrate employees instead of properly implementing it as recommended by the PILIR.
Inadequate human capital: The other challenge hindering effective implementation of PILIR is that government departments failed to make a provision of adequate human capital to effectively implement this policy. The fact that departments fail to plan in accordance with the intended objectives of this policy obliges one to deduce that the goals of this policy are ambiguous and unfeasible.
Format of application forms: Members at times encounter challenges with completing forms as they are complicated to them, more so for members at the lowest level. Consequently, they struggle to comply with ideal dates of submission, which then causes further delays for the employer to forward the forms to the Health Risk Managers.
Outsourced services of Health Risk Manager: We urge the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to conduct a feasibility study on incorporating the services of Health Risk Manager departmentally, preferably at the national level. This might reduce the current high costs related to this service, while at the same time enhancing effective implementation of PILIR.
In conclusion, we hope that these identified challenges will be resolved so that this piece of legislation could serve its intended purpose. We thus recommend the following remedial measures:
• As entailed in the policy, training significantly contributes towards the understanding of PILIR and the importance of the objectives it intends to achieve. It is therefore recommended that continuous workshops should be conducted for both newly appointed employees and those who have been in the departments but still do not properly understand what the policy stipulates. This will be of a greater value towards proper implementation and management of this policy.
• PILIR necessitates effective human resource management capabilities, it is thus important for the departments to capacitate human resource divisions with relevant skills and expertise for proper implementation of this PILIR.
• The departments should, at all times, comply with the stipulated timeframe for processing applications of Temporary Incapacity Leave as well as communicating the outcome to the employee. Furthermore, Health Risk Managers should be held accountable for non-compliance with the service level agreements and the policy where appropriate.
• The department of Public Service and Administration should review the current forms of application into a more manageable and user-friendly format.
• The departments should properly rehabilitate employees and provide necessary skills as the policy stipulates to ensure that members do not view re-deployment as the worst option to their ill-health.
We trust that this submission will assist the DPSA and the departments in resolving the deficiencies in the implementation of PILIR.
I thank you
Mr Nkosinathi Theledi
POPCRU General Secretary