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Incapacity due to ill-health, whether temporary or permanent, can be a challenging and sensitive topic to navigate with an employee.

Incapacity can be divided into two categories: temporary and permanent. The difference between these two types of incapacity is the length of time that the employee's ability or inability to work is expected to last.

Temporary Incapacity

In the case of temporary incapacity, an employee will suffer from impaired or lost function temporarily for a number of days, weeks, or months, but is expected to recover to some extent with treatment or time. During this period, employees may be unable to perform their regular tasks and may require modified tasks for accommodations to aid in their recovery process.

Examples of temporary incapacity could include an employee who has exhausted their sick leave but requires additional time off to recover from an illness and injury.

Permanent Incapacity

Permanent incapacity refers to a state where an individual is unable to work due to injury, illness, or disability on a long-term or permanent basis. Permanent incapacity implies that the employee's condition is unlikely to change/ improve significantly and therefore the employee can’t be expected to return to their position.

It is however important to state that the mere fact that someone is permanently injured does not automatically render them incapacitated, for example, an employee who is permanently wheelchair-bound following an accident may still be able to work or depend on their ability to transition to a new role which they are able to perform despite their limitations. In other words, the emphasis falls on the impact of the impairment on the person’s ability to do his or her job, not on the nature of the impairment.

Employees that are permanently incapacitated could qualify for permanent disability benefits which may provide financial support to compensate for their inability to work.

The industry Pension Fund’s Disability Benefit covers employees who are above the age of 17 years and are totally and permanently incapable of following their own or similar occupation by paying 3x the employee's annual salary plus Fund Credit after the 6-month waiting period. The benefit is payable as 1/3 cash and 2/3 as a monthly pension (if the total benefit is more than R247 500). The benefit reduces by 20% per annum from age 60.

There may be cases where an employee undergoes rehabilitation or retraining programs to assist in the ability to transition to a new role or occupation which they would be able to perform despite their injury or illness.

Ultimately, Temporary or Permanent incapacity presents significant challenges for Employers. Employers must be empathetic in managing these challenges ensuring that lawful processes are followed and that the well-being of all parties involved should be considered.

Dealing with incapacity in a proactive manner promotes a supportive working environment which is highly beneficial for company culture and productivity. We, therefore, encourage you to reach out to your EOHCB representative to assist you through this process of dealing with issues related to incapacity.



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