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Know the law about family responsibility leave

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The management of employee leave can be an administrative headache at the best of times, but knowledge of the law and understanding of which forms of leave are entitlements, and which are accruals, is of assistance.This is particularly so when it comes to the grey area of family responsibility leave, say HR experts at CRS Technologies.
According to HR and HCM industry specialists at the company, having a readily available leave management policy in place is a critical starting point.
This policy should outline all details regulating leave; under which circumstances leave can be taken and how this employee entitlement or accrual is managed in the different industries.
CRS Technologies uses family responsibility leave as an example. This kind of leave provides for an employee’s responsibility towards his/her family and can be taken when an employee’s child is born and when a child is sick. In addition, Family Responsibility Leave can be taken in the event of the death of an employee’s spouse/life partner, parent or adoptive parent, grandparent, child or adopted child, grandchild or sibling.
To qualify for the entitlement, an employee must meet the following criteria:* Employees should have worked for the employer for more than four months Employees should work more than four days a week for their employer; and
* Employees must work more than 24 hours a month.
Family responsibility leave is an entitlement. This means that it is given as a component of each annual leave cycle, during which the employee is employed, irrespective of the number of days worked. Employees are entitled to 3 days leave per leave cycle, and all unused days lapse at the end of the leave cycle.
In contrast, annual leave is an accrual, in which employees accrue days of leave in respect of the number of days worked.
Nicol Myburgh, head of HR business unit at the company, explains that there are definite differences between family responsibility leave governed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and MEIBC Main Agreement (regulating the Metal and Engineering Industry).
“So for example, an employee working within the metal and engineering industry is entitled to family responsibility leave for the same events mentioned earlier, but in addition, the MEIBC also covers when an employee’s spouse is sick and in the event of the death an employee’s parents-in-law,” says Myburgh.
The MEIBC also makes provision for an accrual component, or at least a ‘carry-over’ of the Family Responsibility Leave entitlement.
“Thus if an employee has not used his/her three days Family Responsibility Leave in the current leave cycle it can accrue to the next cycle. This accrual is allowed up to a maximum of nine days paid Family Responsibility Leave,” Myburgh continues.
However, the accrued portion of this leave may only be used in the event of death of one of the persons listed below, and not for a sick child or spouse or when a child is born: spouse or life partner; parent or adoptive parent; grandparent; child or adopted child; grandchild; sibling; or parents-in-law.
Myburgh adds that the entitlement is relevant to both employers and employees.
“This is relevant to employees because they are entitled to a certain amount of paid Family Responsibility Leave days, and should a family emergency arise they should be aware of the amount of leave days they have access to, and under which circumstances they may be used,” he adds.
“This is relevant to Employers, because even though it may not reflect as a financial leave liability in their books as with annual leave, it may still lead to a financial loss, as this may be a contingency form of leave for which the employer has not made financial provision.”
Other factors to consider is that family responsibility leave is paid leave; an employee however may take family responsibility leave in respect of the whole or a part of a day. Before paying an employee for family responsibility leave, an employer may require reasonable proof.
“Many employers mistakenly provide Paternity leave to their employees as an additional type of leave over and above Family Responsibility Leave, without realising that Family Responsibility Leave provides leave for the birth of a child. It is advisable for businesses to be cognisant of these considerations – it is of significant importance in terms of HR leave policy management,” Myburgh says.