Sick leave and medical leave. Types of sick leave and causes

Sick leave and medical leave. Types of sick leave and causes
Published on: 2 February 2024

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All workers, at some point in our professional lives, are forced to go on medical leave. That is to say, to request temporary incapacity from our primary care physician because we are not in adequate health conditions to carry out the tasks for which we were hired. Here we want to talk about this issue in depth and explain what are all the types that exist. In any case, if you find yourself in a situation of sick leave, we recommend that you seek the advice of a labor lawyer expert in the matter.

What is sick leave?

Sick leave is a right recognized in the Workers' Statute and regulated in Royal Decree 625/2014. The correct thing to do, in legal terms, is to call it temporary disability. That is, they are synonymous terms.

So what is temporary incapacity or sick leave? Specifically, it is a situation whereby a worker is unable to perform the tasks associated with his or her position for health reasons. It is considered an excused absence as long as it is granted by a primary care physician.

Obviously, sick leave due to temporary incapacity is of limited duration. Generally, the physician issues a weekly report, which must be renewed until the employee is able to return to work.

During this time, the worker receives an allowance in lieu of salary. The purpose is that, although he is not obliged to work for his company, he can continue to contribute and receive an income that allows him to subsist.

According to the Workers' Statute, this allowance begins to be paid from the fourth day of sick leave. However, many agreements provide for compensation during those first three days. What is stated in these legal texts remains above.

What is the difference between medical leave and sick leave?

Medical leave and sick leave are synonyms. Both concepts can be included within the term "temporary disability", which is the one provided for by the law and which we have explained above.

However, being punctilious, we could make a difference. Specifically, there are experts who use the term sick leave to refer to temporary incapacity due to common contingencies, which are those that are not related to the worker's professional activity. They also use the term sick leave to refer to illnesses and accidents resulting from work-related tasks.

Types of sick leave

There are several types of sick leave, which, as we have mentioned above, can be divided into two main groups. Let's take a look at them.

Medical leaves due to common contingencies

Statistically, these are the most common periods of sick leave. These periods of temporary incapacity can be caused by:

  • Common disease. For example, a cold or a surgical operation with its corresponding recovery period that is not a consequence of the employee's professional activity.
  • Common accident. That is to say, that which we can suffer at any time. We would speak, for example, of injuries sustained during a traffic accident (provided they are not in itinere or as a result of a transfer during working hours) or a broken bone while playing a game of soccer with friends.

In this case, the worker will receive 60% of his or her regulatory base from the fourth day of sick leave to the twentieth. If the temporary incapacity lasts longer, the worker will begin to receive 75% from the twenty-first day.

It should be noted that the labor agreement may specify higher thresholds. For example, the company may pay the salary for the first three days or add a compensation to the benefit that allows the worker to receive 100%. However, this is not mandatory.

Leave of absence due to occupational hazards

Professional contingencies are also reasons for sick leave. Specifically, we refer to:

  • Occupational disease. These are health problems resulting from the employee's own activity within the company for which he or she works. This would be the case, for example, of a miner who, due to prolonged inhalation of suspended mineral particles, develops chronic bronchitis.
  • Occupational accident. Here we are talking about any accident that occurs during the working day and that is closely related to the work activity. For example, we could cite a bricklayer who falls from a scaffolding while repairing a facade.

In these cases, the Social Security Law establishes that the worker will receive an allowance equivalent to 75% of his or her regulatory base from the day after suffering the accident or being diagnosed with an occupational disease, without prejudice to a higher threshold fixed in the agreement.

As in the previous case, it is a primary care physician who must grant temporary incapacity, although it is true that mutual insurance companies play an important role here. To do so, it will be necessary to clarify that the temporary incapacity situation is related to the development of the professional activity.

Requirements to apply for sick leave

Not all workers can collect the temporary disability benefit. To be able to do so, you must meet the following requirements:

  • To be registered with the Social Security. This can be in the General Regime (employees) or in the Special Regime (self-employed).
  • If the temporary disability is derived from a common contingency, the worker must have contributed 180 days in the previous 5 years. This requirement disappears in the case of professional contingency.
  • Medical certificate. A primary care professional must verify the worker's state of health and issue the temporary disability report. Subsequently, if necessary, he/she must issue confirmation reports until the worker is discharged.

Once the employee has been discharged, he/she has 24 hours to return to work. In the event that the following day is a holiday or non-working day, he/she will have to do so on the next working day.

In short, we now know what the different causes of sick leave are and what types exist. As we have been able to see, the fundamental difference lies in whether the event that gives rise to the temporary disability is a consequence of the worker's own professional activity or not. We hope we have helped you to resolve your doubts and to understand how the system works.

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