Most employers have encountered the curious phenomenon of the mysteriously absent employee. They’re not at their station at 8 am. By midday, you’ve left multiple calls on their voicemail. And to get through the day you’re forced to shuffle your staff around to pick up the slack. But when this happens the next day, and the next day, and the next, what then? What can you do, if anything, when an AWOL employee magically reappears?
An unfortunate fact of the South African labour environment is that the employer-employee relationship is not always a bed of roses. Occasionally you need to deal with thorny issues that inevitably arise from time to time. Like the employee that sleeps on duty, swears at customers, persists in arriving late and leaving early, obstinately refuses to follow instructions, blatantly disregards company policies, commits theft, __________ fill in the blank! Difficult though it may be, employers are cautioned against acting on a knee-jerk. Admittedly it is tempting to yell “You’re Fired!” and instruct security to boot your employee out the door. But unless the thought of dealing with a CCMA action appeals to you, a more tempered approach is advised. Here are a few guidelines for when you find yourself having to discipline a wayward employee.
If you plan on suspending employees, make sure you do so lawfully. This includes having good cause, and following a proper procedure. Because there’s no guarantee that a suspended employee will skulk off quietly, tail between their legs, to mope around at home while you complete your investigations and dig up the dirt on them. Your suspended employee would in all likelihood be using their time a little more productively. Like scuttling off to the Labour Court and returning with some well-trained legal artillery.
In days gone by, the company’s bank account was handled very differently. Back then, when a company was formed the bank manager would personally meet with the owners to open the bank account. The company’s banking transactions would all be done through that specific branch, where all the banking staff would greet by name the owners, the bookkeeper, the secretaries, the messenger and the company employees in general. Anyone authorised to operate on the account would be issued with a closely-guarded cheque book, and every staff member in the bank would know who the authorised signatories were, whether any restrictions applied, and even recognise the signatures at a glance! A banking transaction was more than a press of a button. It involved a protracted discussion with the bank manager about how the kids were doing and whether the weather would improve, during which time a tray of tea would be delivered. Only once the last drop was drunk would they get down to banking business.
We often hear people ask “Am I paying my helper enough? What’s the going rate for domestic workers?” South African law (under Sectoral Determination 7) sets out the minimum wages required to be paid to domestic workers. The Department of Labour updates the minimum wages for domestic workers annually. This update came into effect on 01 December 2016.
The financial year end has come and gone, and accountants are by-and-large finished with calculating how much profit they’ll be reporting to shareholders, and how little they’ll be reporting to SARS. But what about the staff bonuses? Every year employers find themselves facing the same old challenge: employees demanding “their” annual bonuses. Companies find themselves asking “Must I pay my staff a performance bonus? Profit bonus? Ad hoc bonus? Is the payment of a bonus legally required in South Africa?” Meanwhile, employees are asking “I didn’t get a bonus this year – aren’t I entitled to one?”
Previously, in Check that Fake CV – Part III…
A beautifully crafted, shamelessly fabricated CV has caught the employer’s eye, and its owner has been shortlisted for an interview. Our Pulitzer Prize nominee proves to be multi-talented, pulling off an Oscar-winning performance in the interview. The selection committee is salivating at the gem they think they’ve found, oblivious to the fact that this “gem” is nothing more than cheap plastic destined to break within weeks after the appointment has been finalised.
“I signed a Restraint of Trade. Now I want to quit my job. Is the restraint of trade legal?” This question is regularly asked by employees – generally around the time that the employee decides to look for other employment. Sometimes the question is only asked after the employee has taken up a position at another company – often the competitor. And then they get a fright when suddenly faced with legal action based on a restraint they had forgotten that they had even signed.
One of the many distinguishing factors between homo sapiens and the rest of the animal kingdom is the humanoid’s propensity to smoke substances of varying varieties. Whatever the reason – religious, cultural, pleasure, habit, image, addiction – it is a practice that has perpetuated for centuries. During the 20th century, however, the advancement of medical research unveiled the dangerous side-effects of this long-lasting custom. This led to a global trend of imposing restrictions on smokers and tobacco companies alike. Amongst these restrictions is the now accepted imposition of smoke-free zones (such as offices and public spaces) and the establishment of designated smoking areas outside of which smokers may not publicly indulge in their habit. These restrictions, coupled with the indisputable health risks associated with smoking, exposed a gap in the market; the search was on for a product that the health-conscious smoker, unwilling or unable to kick the habit, could safely use as a guilt-free alternative.
South African labour law recognises that it is may sometimes be necessary for a company to implement a zero-tolerance policy. Particularly where the policy has been implemented to guard against a serious risk to the Company. But that doesn’t mean that the company can act with impunity. Can a Company dismiss an employee for a minor transgression on the basis of its Zero Tolerance policy?