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Category: Employment Law

DISMISSING AN EMPLOYEE FOR RACISM

DISMISSING AN EMPLOYEE FOR RACISM

There are different reasons why an employer might consider firing an employee. After teacher Keith Arlow had been fired from St John’s College in Johannesburg for being found to have victimised pupils based on their race, the question of dismissal due to racism was brought up.

Initially, Arlow was issued with a final written warning, stepped down from senior positions he held at the school and allegedly received a pay cut. However, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, was not satisfied with this and prompted a dismissal.

When can someone be dismissed?

According to Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), dismissal is only appropriate for those serious offences that make “a continued employment relationship intolerable”.

Such serious offences could include: gross insubordination, endangering the safety of others, wilful damage to the employer’s property, gross dishonesty and assault.

However, it’s important to note that even these offences will not automatically give the employer the right to dismiss. This is because the person carrying out the dismissal must consider:

  • Circumstances such as the employee’s length of service, previous disciplinary record, personal circumstances etc.
  • The job’s context and purpose. Sleeping on the job, for example, might be serious for a security guard, but not for a clerk.
  • Other circumstances. For example, if an employee fell asleep because he had to work without a break.

Dismissing an employee for racism

In the case of Ceppwawu obo Evans v Poly Oak (2003, 12 BALR 1324), the employee was dismissed for making a racist comment during an altercation.

He was charged with using offensive and inappropriate language. He claimed that he had done so in jest and had not intended to hurt the other person. The employer claimed that the employee had breached its code of conduct which was designed to improve relations in the workplace. The arbitrator upheld the dismissal, despite the employee having apologised. The arbitrator also noted that the Labour Appeal Court (in Crown Chickens (Pty) Ltd v Kapp and others 2002, 11 LAC 6,12,3) had described racism in the workplace as “a plague and a cancer that must be rooted out”.

The court said that “courts should deal with racism and racial slurs in a manner that gives expression to the legitimate feelings of outrage experienced by reasonable people in a society against racism”.

Conclusion

Because of South Africa’s past, racism in the workplace cannot be tolerated. However, the employer needs to prove that the employee did commit the offence and that the act itself was serious enough for dismissal. Also, when the offending employee argues mitigating circumstances, the employer must give them consideration.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference

“Racist St John’s College teacher fired with immediate effect”. Ndileka Lujabe, City Press. 2017-07-28.

http://city-press.news24.com/News/racist-st-johns-college-teacher-fired-with-immediate-effect-20170728. [Accessed on 11 August 2017]

“What Constitutes Intolerable”. The South African Labour Guide. Ivan Israelstam.

http://www.labourguide.co.za/general/398-in-the-firing-line-what-constitutes-intolerable. [Accessed on 11 August 2017]

Ceppwawu obo Evans v Poly Oak [2003, 12 BALR 1324]

FULFILLING DUTIES OUTSIDE OF YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION.

FULFILLING DUTIES OUTSIDE OF YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION.

It often happens in the workplace that an employee is requested to assist in other departments, when such need arises due to sickness, resignation or the like.

For example, Linda, a secretary in the bookkeeping department, is requested to assist the sales department with secretarial duties while Janet is on maternity leave.

In the above example, Linda’s normal working hours are divided between the two departments and the request did not require of her to work any additional hours, over and above her normal working hours.

In such instances, Linda’s employer may even consider granting additional remuneration (an honorarium or ex gratia payment) to her, as a token of appreciation for her willingness to assist.

A number of legislation governs the relationship between employers and employees, such as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (“the BCEA”). The BCEA serves to regulate the basic conditions of employment, such as the regulation of working time, ordinary hours of work and overtime.

An employee’s job description is usually set out in his/her employment contract and may even contain a term along the following lines:
“In addition to the duties referred to herein, the employee may from time to time be required to execute other instructions reasonably assigned to him/her.”

It is advisable to include such a term in an employee’s contract of employment, in order for the employee to take cognisance of the fact that he/she may be expected to fulfil duties other than those contained in their job description from time to time.

There is no provision in the BCEA which prevents a condition other than those contained therein being included in a contract of employment, but any provision which sets conditions which are less favourable than those provided for by the BCEA, are invalid.

It should be mentioned however that such instruction to fulfil duties other than those described in an employee’s job description should always be both lawful and reasonable. In the example above, the request from Linda’s employer requires her to perform essentially the same functions as set out in her job description- only for a different department, which request appears to be both lawful and reasonable.

Furthermore, seeing as Linda is not required to provide assistance to the sales department outside of her normal working hours, no additional remuneration is payable (except where the employer elects to do so on an ex gratia basis). Should Linda have had to work overtime in order to perform the additional duties as set out above, the contract of employment should provide for remuneration thereof.

It is advisable that an employer includes a clause in all its contracts of employment, which states specifically that the employee’s job description is not exhaustive and that the employer may from time to time request the employee to perform certain functions outside of his/her job description (such request being both lawful and reasonable).

Employers should further guard against setting a precedent when paying additional remuneration to an employee for performing certain functions outside their normal job description. If such additional remuneration is paid regularly and consistently, it becomes an “established practice” and therefore a term of employment. A failure to then make such a payment may amount to an unfair labour practice, or it may be seen as a unilateral change to the terms and conditions of employment, which could expose the employer to certain claims by the employee.

It is also advisable to include a further term in the contract of employment that the employer is not obliged to pay any additional remuneration in such instances and any such payments will be in the sole and absolute discretion of the employer.

Compiled By: MICHELLE TALJAARD

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

FRINGE BENEFITS AND INCOME TAX: CAN EMPLOYEES STILL BENEFIT FINANCIALLY FROM FRINGE BENEFITS?

FRINGE BENEFITS AND INCOME TAX: CAN EMPLOYEES STILL BENEFIT FINANCIALLY FROM FRINGE BENEFITS?

A1_MarIn the past there were definite financial gains attached to certain fringe benefits granted by an employer to employees. There were also quite a few loopholes which were abused by a number of taxpayers. As a result SARS has clamped down on the tax treatment of fringe benefits by changing the Tax Laws and closing the loopholes.SARS started taxing the cash value of fringe benefits. The cash value of a fringe benefit is equal to the cost of the benefit to the employer. If the asset depreciates over time, the cash value will have to be re-considered each year, otherwise the employee will be paying too much tax.

The following fringe benefits granted by an employer to an employee will be taxable in the employee’s hands at the cash value as set out below:

  • Private use of a cellphone or computer equipment, except if the private use of the asset is incidental to the business use thereof and the employee uses the asset more than 50% for the employer’s business.

The onus to prove that the asset is required to be used outside of the workplace by the employee and mainly for business purposes, rests on the employer and the employee.

  • Company car:

The cash value of the company car fringe benefit will be calculated with reference to the original cost of the vehicle to the employer.

There are special tax considerations to be taken into account in the following circumstances:

  1. A vehicle not acquired by the employer in a sales or exchange transaction;
  2. Maintenance plans;
  • Employee contributes towards the cost of the vehicle;
  1. Employee used the vehicle for a period shorter than a month; or
  2. Employee is regularly required to use the motor vehicle for the performance of his/her duties outside their normal working hours.
  • Giving an asset to an employee for free or for less than its actual value:

The cash value of the fringe benefit will be the value of the asset less any consideration paid by the employee.

  • Low interest or interest-free loans:

The fringe benefit will have a cash value of interest calculated at the SARS official tax rate and be reduced by any interest paid by the employee.

  • Subsidies in respect of loans:

The cash value will be equal to the cost of the subsidy to the employer in respect of any interest and/or capital repayments.

  • Employer subsidies to pension funds, provident funds, etc.:

The cash value will be the amount of the subsidy paid by the employer.

  • Employer contributions to insurance policies where the employee or a relative of the employee will be benefitted by the policy:

The cash value will be equal to the amount of the premiums paid by the employer.

  • Medical aid contributions paid on behalf of an employee:

The cash value is equal to the amount paid by the employer.

  • Payment or refund of medical expenses incurred by the employee or his immediate family:

The cash value is equal to the cost to the employer.

  • Debt paid on behalf of an employee or releasing an employee from an obligation to pay a debt:

The cash value is equal to the amount paid by the employer or the amount of the debt of which the employee has been released.

There are a number of exceptions where no value will be placed on the payment or the release of the debt. Please contact your tax practitioner for more information.

  • Free or cheap services:

The cash value will be calculated as the cost of the service to the employer less any amount paid by the employee.

  • Free meals, refreshments or meal vouchers:

The cash value of this benefit will be equal to the cost to the employer less any amount paid by the employee.

It is important to ensure that an employee is taxed on the correct amount for a fringe benefit. Taxing an employee on an amount higher than the cash value of a fringe benefit will result in the employee paying too much tax. Taxing the employee on an amount lower than the cash value, thus deducting too little Employees’ Tax will cause the employer to become liable for fines and penalties from SARS.

As can be seen from the above, an employee will be taxed on his/her cost to the employer and it is fast becoming irrelevant whether an employee’s package is structured in a certain way to reduce income tax.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your attorney for specific and detailed advice. (E&OE)

Reference List:

SIEKBRIEWE OF VALS BRIEWE?

SIEKBRIEWE OF VALS BRIEWE?

MHI_A1blHierdie artikel handel oor mediese sertifikate en of ‘n werknemer geregtig is om ‘n dag af te neem vir ‘n “siekte”.

Angela het haar werkgewer Maandagoggend in kennis gestel dat sy tuis gaan bly, aangesien sy baie siek gevoel het en nie in staat was om haar werk te verrig nie. Angela het eers Woensdag besluit dat sy die dokter sal besoek omdat sy geweet het dat sy Donderdag moet terugkeer werk toe en dat sy ‘n mediese sertifikaat vanaf die dokter sal benodig om te verhoed dat haar werkgewer die geld van haar salaris aftrek. Daar het egter ‘n verrassing op Angela gewag.

In terme van Reël 15(1) van die Etiese en Professionele Reëls van die Mediese en Tandheelkundige Beroepsraad van die Raad vir Gesondheidsberoepe van Suid-Afrika mag ‘n praktisyn alleenlik ‘n sertifikaat van siekte verleen indien die sertifikaat die volgende inligting bevat:

  • die naam, adres en kwalifikasie van die praktisyn;
  • die naam van die pasiënt;
  • indiensnemingsnommer van die pasiënt (indien van toepassing);
  • die datum en tyd van die ondersoek;
  • of die sertifikaat uitgereik word as gevolg van persoonlike waarnemings deur die praktisyn tydens ‘n ondersoek, of as gevolg van die inligting wat van die pasiënt ontvang is en wat gebaseer is op aanvaarbare mediese gronde;
  • ‘n beskrywing van die siekte, ongesteldheid of kwaal in leketerme, met die toestemming van die pasiënt, met dien verstande dat indien die pasiënt nie bereid is om sodanige toestemming te gee nie, die geneesheer of tandarts bloot bepaal dat die pasiënt volgens sy of haar opinie, gebaseer op ‘n ondersoek van die pasiënt, ongeskik vir werk is;
  • of die pasiënt heeltemal ongeskik vir werk is en of die pasiënt minder inspannende take in die werksituasie kan uitvoer;
  • die presiese tydperk van aanbevole siekteverlof;
  • die datum van uitreiking van die sertifikaat van siekte; en
  • ‘n duidelike aanduiding van die identiteit van die praktisyn wat die sertifikaat, wat persoonlik en oorspronklik langs sy of haar voorletters en van onderteken is, in gedrukte of drukskrif uitgereik het.

As voorafgedrukte skryfbehoeftes gebruik word, moet die praktisyn woorde wat irrelevant is, verwyder. Die praktisyn moet ‘n kort feitelike verslag aan die pasiënt verskaf waar so ‘n pasiënt dit vereis.

Die bogenoemde is grootliks selfverduidelikend. Subreël (e) verwys na daardie omstandighede waar die werknemer byvoorbeeld siek is op ‘n Maandag en Dinsdag en dan op Woensdag die dokter besoek en die dokter inlig dat hy sedert Maandag griep het en ‘n siekbrief vereis. Die dokter sal dan gewoonlik op die siekbrief skryf: “Ek is deur die pasiënt ingelig dat …”

‘n Werkgewer hoef nie hierdie as ‘n ware siekte te aanvaar nie. Die dokter vertel jou net dat die pasiënt sê hy was siek. Die dokter bevestig nie dat hy ‘n ondersoek gedoen het en in staat is om die siekte te bevestig nie. Jy sal dus ten volle geregverdig wees om die werknemer in te lig dat die tyd wat geneem was, as onbetaalde verlof beskou sal word en dat hy in die toekoms die dokter moet besoek op die dag wanneer hy siek word en nie nadat hy herstel het van die beweerde siekte nie.

Ongelukkig vir Angela het haar werkgewer onlangs ‘n artikel gelees wat hom ingelig het oor sy regte om die geld van haar salaris af te trek, omdat sy nie op Maandag of Dinsdag by haar werk opgedaag het nie en eers Woensdag die dokter besoek het, en omdat daar geen manier vir die werkgewer was om vas te stel of sy definitief op daardie dae siek was nie.

In die lig van die bogenoemde sal dit wys wees vir werknemers om die dokter te besoek op dieselfde dag wat hulle siek voel en vir die werkgewers om daarop aan te dring om die mediese sertifikaat te sien en dit behoorlik te ondersoek.

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.

SICK LETTERS OR FAKE LETTERS?

SICK LETTERS OR FAKE LETTERS?

MHI_A1blThis article deals with medical certificates and whether or not an employee is justified in taking the day off for an “illness”.

Angela informed her employer on Monday morning that she would be staying at home as she felt very sick and was unable to do her work in her condition. Angela only decided on Wednesday that she would go to the doctor because she knew she would be returning to work on Thursday, and therefore needed a medical certificate from the doctor so that her work would not deduct the money from her salary. However, Angela had a surprise waiting for her.

In terms of Rule 15(1) of the Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa a practitioner shall only grant a certificate of illness if such certificate contains the following information:

  • the name, address and qualification of the practitioner;
  • the name of the patient;
  • the employment number of the patient (if applicable);
  • the date and time of the examination;
  • whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds;
  • a description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology, with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit to work;
  • whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation;
  • the exact period of recommended sick leave;
  • the date of issuing of the certificate of illness; and
  • a clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate which shall be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.

If preprinted stationery is used, a practitioner shall delete words which are irrelevant. A practitioner shall issue a brief factual report to a patient where such a patient requires information concerning himself/herself.

The above is largely self-explanatory. Subrule (e) refers to those occasions where, for example, the employee has been off sick on Monday and Tuesday and then on Wednesday he goes to the doctor and informs the doctor that he has had flu since Monday and requires a sick note. The doctor is then required to write in the sick note, “I was informed by the patient that …”

An employer does not have to accept this as a genuine illness. The doctor is only telling you that the patient says he was ill. The doctor is not certifying that he made an examination and is able to confirm the illness. You would therefore be perfectly justified in informing the employee that the time taken off will be regarded as unpaid leave and that in future he should visit the doctor when he falls ill and not after he has recovered from the alleged illness.

Unfortunately for Angela her employer recently read an article informing him of his rights to deduct money from her salary because she failed to come to work on Monday and Tuesday and only went to see the doctor on Wednesday, and there was no way of ascertaining that she definitely was ill on those days.

In light of the above it would be wise for employees to see the doctor on the same day that they feel ill, and for employers to insist on seeing the medical certificate and examining it properly.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

HOW MUCH LEAVE AM I ENTITLED TO?

HOW MUCH LEAVE AM I ENTITLED TO?

A2bCoco has had a wonderful offer. She and her family have won a free trip to the Seychelles, all expenses paid! But surely there must be a catch besides the one swimming in the blue water of these Indian Ocean islands?

Coco is a full-time secretary and has been working at her new company for just over a year, but is not sure how much leave she may be entitled to. According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997, annual leave does not apply to employees who work less than 24 hours per month. This includes domestic workers. This means that temporary employees and independent contractors are included in this Act.

In terms of the Act, annual leave accrues to an employee. Thus the employee’s leave builds up every month. The leave accrues at the rate of one hour for every 17 hours worked, or one day for every 17 days worked, or 1,25 days per month. The total permitted minimum is 15 working days per annum on full pay in each annual leave cycle or in each period of 12 months, calculated from the date of employment.

The Act refers to 21 consecutive days. This includes weekends, which means that you will actually receive 15 working days, as a “normal” working week consists of five days.

It is important to note that the Act states that the accrual applies at the rate of one day for every 17 days on which the employee worked or was entitled to be paid. Public holidays are seen as working days since the employee is paid on those days as if they are working days and will thus be included in the calculation when determining annual leave.

This also applies to sick leave. If the employee has been booked off for sick leave and he/she was paid on those days, those days can be included in the calculation for annual leave, unless the employee has no sick leave days left, or has been on unpaid sick leave, in which case these days are excluded from the calculation.

It is common practice for some employers to deduct a certain monthly amount from the wages of a temporary employee or from the wages of an independent contractor, to put this money into a “leave account” to the employee’s advantage, and when that employee goes on annual leave or on sick leave, he/she is paid for those days from this account. However, this practice is illegal and the employer will be guilty of breaching the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, and is also guilty of fraud because he has defrauded the employee of a legal entitlement, namely paid annual leave and paid sick leave. If you are ever the victim of such a practice, you are entitled to sue the employer for damages.

There is no provision that states that employees may not take their annual leave days consecutively. Therefore, Coco will be able to go on her holiday, as she is a full-time employee who works more than 24 hours per month and has been working for a year, which means she has 15 consecutive leave days during which to enjoy her opportunity of a lifetime!

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

HOEVEEL VERLOF KAN EK KRY?

HOEVEEL VERLOF KAN EK KRY?

A2bCoco het ‘n fantastiese aanbod ontvang. Sy en haar gesin  het  ‘n gratis  reis na die Seychelles gewen – alle uitgawes betaal!  Maar  daar moet seker ‘n vangplek wees en ek bedoel nie die plek waar jy swem in die  blou waters van die Indiese Oseaan nie.

Coco is onseker of sy geregtig sal wees op betaalde verlof. Sy  is ‘n voltydse sekretaresse en werk reeds meer as ‘n jaar vir die nuwe maatskappy. Luidens die Wet op Basiese Diensvoorwaardes 75 van 1997, is jaarlikse verlofvoordele nie van toepassing op werknemers, insluitend huishulpe, wat minder as 24 uur per maand werk nie. Dit beteken dat diensvoorwaardes van tydelike werknemers en onafhanklike kontrakteurs ook onder hierdie wet val.

Kragtens die Wet, loop ‘n werknemer se jaarlikse verlof op. Dit beteken dat die werknemer se verlof maandeliks aanwas. Verlof loop op teen ‘n koers van een uur verlof vir elke 17 ure gewerk, of een dag verlof vir elke 17 dae gewerk, of anders gestel, 1,25 dae per maand. Die totale toegelate minimum is 15 werksdae per jaar met volle salaris in elke jaarlikse verlofsiklus of in elke tydperk van 12 maande, bereken vanaf die datum van  indiensneming. 

Die Wet maak melding van 21 opeenvolgende dae. Naweke word ingesluit, wat beteken dat die werknemer eintlik 15 werksdae kry aangesien ‘n “normale” werkweek bestaan ​​uit vyf dae.

Dit is belangrik om daarop te let dat die Wet bepaal dat die aanwas van toepassing is op die tempo van een dag vir elke 17 dae waarop die werknemer gewerk het of geregtig was om voor betaal te word. Openbare vakansiedae word beskou as werkdae aangesien werknemers op daardie dae vergoed word as sou die dae normale werkdae wees wat derhalwe ingesluit word in die berekening van jaarlikse verlof.

Siekteverlof word op ‘n soortgelyke wyse hanteer. Indien die werknemer betaalde siekteverlof gehad het word daardie dae ingesluit by die berekening van jaarlikse verlof, tensy die werknemer nie meer siekverlofdae beskikbaar het nie of met onbetaalde siekteverlof was, in welke geval hierdie dae uitgesluit word vir die doeleinde van die berekening.

Dit is algemene praktyk vir sommige werkgewers om maandeliks ‘n bedrag  af te trek van die tydelike werker of onafhanklike kontrakteur se loon en dit tot die werknemer se voordeel in ‘n sogenaamde “verlofrekening” te hou wat dan ten tye van die werknemer se verlof uitbetaal word. Hierdie praktyk is egter onwettig en die werkgewer sal skuldig wees aan oortreding van die Wet op Basiese Diensvoorwaardes asook aan bedrog omdat hy die werknemer ontneem van ‘n wettige reg op betaalde jaarlikse verlof en betaalde siekteverlof. Slagoffers van so ‘n wanpraktyk kan die werkgewer dagvaar vir skadevergoeding.

Daar is geen bepaling dat werknemers nie hul jaarlikse verlofdae opeenvolgend mag neem nie. Coco word beskou as ‘n voltydse werknemer omdat sy vir ten minste ‘n jaar lank meer as 24 uur per week vir die maatskappy gewerk het en dus sal sy kwalifiseer vir 15 opeenvolgende dae verlof.

Ons kan dus vir Coco gerusstel. Sy sal in staat wees om die vakansie van ‘n leeftyd te geniet!

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.