I bet you know the situation when your employee calls in sick but you suspect that he is not actually ill. You are between a rock and a hard place. If you are not sympathetic with a truly ill employee, you will be the worst boss ever. But if you do not take actions against the employee who is not truly ill, workplace productivity and employee morale may suffer. Here is what you can and cannot do with sick-leave abusers in Hungary.

1. Asking for medical certificate

The most important duty of the employee is to attend the workplace and perform work. Thus, the employee is expected to inform the employer without delay about any obstacles of work.

Sick leave shall be certified with an official doctor's note, duly signed and stamped by the GP of employee. The certificate contains the first date and the duration of sick leave. If the sick leave lasts longer than 8 days, the doctor will issue a certificate about permanent sick leave. In this case the sick leave shall be certified at least in every two weeks by the GP.

When your employee calls in sick, you should request to send you the GP certificate as soon as possible. Because of privacy protection reasons, you cannot ask the employee what exactly his illness is but you can ask him about the expected timeframe of his sick leave.

If your employee fails to provide proof or makes contradictory statements, you can think of the further steps below.

2. Review of the sick leave

If your employee's sick leave lasts longer or he does not give clear information about the expected timeframe of his sick leave, you can request a so called review procedure. In this case the appointed doctor of the government office can examine the employee and review his medical records. Based on his examination, the appointed doctor can review the GP's opinion and declare that the employee is able to work.

In case the duration of the sick leave is longer than 30 days, the government appointed doctor will review the employee's sick leave monthly.

Based on a recent study around 15-20 % of the employees have been getting caught by the government appointed doctors for calling in sick when they already felt fine.

If the sick leave has been unlawful it not only justifies extraordinary termination under certain conditions but it has serious financial consequences: the employee shall pay back the money that he received as sick pay.

3. Company doctor's examination

Most employers forget that in case the sick leave lasts longer than 30 days and the employee returns to work, he shall be sent to the occupational doctor for an extraordinary medical examination. The occupational doctor will also examine whether the employee is medically fit for work.

You are entitled to request the medical examination of the employee at any time even in the absence of a long term sick leave.

In this case, you can request the employee to provide his medical records to the company doctor. Although the company doctor cannot review the GP's opinion, his report can tell a lot about the medical condition of the employee and whether he has faked his illness.

4. Can I fire the employee?

There are urban legends between the employees that in Hungary you cannot be fired when you are on sick leave. The basis of this is that the old Labour Code prohibited the employer to fire the employee with ordinary dismissal during the period of sick leave up to a maximum of one year.

Some four years ago, the new Labour Code changed this regime and now employees can be fired with ordinary dismissal during their sick leave. However, the notice period only starts after the period of the sick leave has ended and the grace period is maximized in one year.

Furthermore, employers are free to fire the employee with extraordinary dismissal if it can be justified. If you have requested the employee to certify his sick leave and he fails to do so, it may be a good reason to terminate his employment effective immediately.

5. Conclusion

To sum up the above, controlling sick leave is an area where strategic thinking makes more sense than immediate actions. Contrary to employees' beliefs, employers have various rights to prevent sick leave abuses. By exercising these powers reasonable, the problem of sick leave abuse can be managed effectively.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.