Tag: employees

How do you select who to retrench?

Source: LabourNet

South Africa has experienced several negative economic factors including the Covid-19 pandemic that have adversely affected the performance of companies in all industries. Companies have failed to achieve budgeted revenue while significant financial losses over the past few months have increased.

This has led to an increase in employers being forced to reduce the number of staff through retrenchments by following Section 189 and 189A of the Labour Relations Act. Dismissals based on the employer’s operational requirements include the employer’s economical, technological, structural or similar needs.

Employers must ensure that the termination due to retrenchment must be substantively and procedurally fair to avoid spending time and money at the relevant dispute resolution forums like the CCMA, Bargaining Council and the Labour Court. When an employer is forced to enter into retrenchment consultations, the selection criteria used when selecting which employees may be affected falls within the fairness of the dismissal.

The LRA in section 189(2) prescribes that a joint consensus seeking procedure must be followed and further continues in Section 189(2)(b) that an attempt to reach consensus on the method for selecting the employees to be dismissed. Section 189(7) prescribes that the employer must select employees to be dismissed according to a selection criterion that has been agreed between the parties or failing agreement a criterion that is both fair and objective.

This agreement can be agreed upon in the collective agreement between the Union and the employer and could further be agreed upon between the parties during the consultation process.

Should there be no agreement between the parties, the employer should follow Section 189(7)(b), which refers to the fair and objective selection criteria. The principal of “LIFO” last in first out, that refers to the employee’s years of service is the most commonly used selection criteria in the absence of an agreement between the parties. This is however not the only alternative selection criteria that may be used, when an employer is exploring a fair and objective selection criteria the employer should keep in mind that this selection criterion may not discriminate against a certain group of people.

Performance, skills and qualification or a combination of these criterions is frequently used as a selection criteria during retrenchments.

In Oosthuizen v Telkom SA Ltd [2007] 11 BLLR 1013 (LAC) the court found that the dismissal of the applicant was unfair when the respondent made use of skills, suitability and the company’s employment equity policy, without taking into consideration the appellants years of service.

It is important that the selection criteria should be fair and objective, not only one of the above. By pulling employees names out of a hat could be seen as objective, however it could still be seen as unfair should an employee be selected on this basis with significant more years of service than the employee who is not affected unless this was agreed to by the consulting parties.

There are different ways and means for employers to make use of selection criterions when faced with retrenchments. The sustainability of the business going forward is of outmost importance, however the use of the last in first out “LIFO” principal has been accepted and endorsed by the courts.

By Phumi Ramalepe for Business Insider SA

Discovery Health has dismissed 10 employees for being part of a private WhatsApp group that apparently aimed to get its Cape Town offices closed.

The 10 young call centre employees apparently asked to be allowed to work from home around the beginning of lockdown. Three of them said they contracted Covid-19.

Their lawyer says their privacy was violated. Discovery says the evidence it obtained through a whistleblower is grounds for dismissal.

Discovery Health fired 10 call centre employees during lockdown for being part of a WhatsApp group that, apparently, sought to “shut down” local Cape Town offices in March, for fear of the coronavirus.

Now the employees want compensation, and their jobs back, but Discovery says it had solid grounds to dismiss them – even though the chat group was private.

According to Discovery, another employee, who had been an active participant of the group, provided information about posts in the group. The company characterises the conversations as bringing it into disrepute, while, it says, the employees failed to raise their concerns internally.

“Ten employees were plotting to sabotage Discovery Health, including plans to involve external third parties to bring the company into disrepute,” said Ryan Noach, the CEO of Discovery Health.

“The motive appeared to be an attempt to achieve the closure of the local Discovery Health offices, in order not to have to work during the period.”

Although the group chat was private, Discovery insists that the employees were “acting subversively”, based on evidence from the whistleblower.

After investigations were conducted, the employees were dismissed in July.

The employees’ pro bono lawyer, Nkosinathi Malgas, said the employees were dismissed unfairly, and only created the WhatsApp group to support each other after Discovery Health refused to let all of them work from home while three of them contracted Covid-19.

“The contents of the WhatsApp group were them talking about their safety in the workplace, and they were supporting one another in terms of the emotional trauma that they were going through,” said Malgas.

Malgas argues that the employees’ right to privacy was also violated, since information that was meant to be private was used against them.

“Constitutional rights of citizens override any social [media] policy. This information was processed from their personal cellphones and these individuals have got a right to privacy.

“Their information is protected in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act, and therefore anyone who wants to get into your personal information must do so with your consent as well as a court order,” said Malgas.

It would have been a different story had the employees used Discovery’s tools of trade, according to Malgas, rather than their own cellphones and a chat platform unconnected to the company.

Noach, however, insisted no one’s rights were infringed throughout investigations.

“It should also be entirely clear, that all device information utilised in this disciplinary investigation was submitted voluntarily and without coercion, by a whistleblower who made their personal device available.

“There was certainly no infringement of any personal confidential device information whatsoever,” Noach said.

An arbitration that wasn’t
Discovery and the employees had been due to appear before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday, but Discovery did not show up, according to Malgas.

A clause in the employees’ contracts stipulates that any dispute related to labour matters, dismissals or termination of employment will be referred to a private arbitration, Malgas said, which means they will have to pay a potion of the cost of such private arbitration.

Discovery tells a different story, however. It had applied for the CCMA matter to be heard virtually, the company said.

“The Commissioner tasked to deal with the matter was unfortunately unavailable and the file was handed to another. It was unfortunate that technical issues were experienced on the side of the CCMA and we could not engage further,” Noach said.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Despite the widespread practice of shutting down entire retail stores and calling in deep-cleaning experts when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, there is no legal requirement for retailers (or other employers) to do either.

This is according to Talita Laubscher, partner at leading African law firm, Bowmans, who said: ‘We have been told by representatives of the Department of Health that in most circumstances, it’s not necessary to do a complete shutdown. What’s more, cleaning does not need to be completed by special cleaning service providers. It can be as simple as using Jik.’

She was speaking during a recent webinar hosted by Bowmans on employment law challenges faced by the retail sector.

Unlike other sectors, the retail industry has been open since the start of the national lockdown, when there were no directives in place to deal with situations where employees tested positive for COVID-19. In the absence of directives at the time, Department of Employment and Labour inspectors adopted certain practices, such as instructing retailers, especially food retailers, to shut down their stores and call in external cleaning specialists. These practices have in some instances continued from then on – even though they are not legal requirements contained in any of the directives.

Laubscher said in the event that an employee tests positive, the employer must consider three things: the need to temporarily close and decontaminate the affected area; placing the employee who tested positive in isolation; and determining who else has been in contact with the employee who tested positive and assessing the level of risk of that exposure. ‘In this regard, a distinction is made between a high-risk exposure and a low-risk exposure.’

Low vs high-risk exposure

A low-risk exposure is where the contact with the employee who tested positive was for less than 15 minutes and more than 1.5 metres apart, with the individuals wearing protective equipment such as masks or shields. ‘In these circumstances, the employee who was in contact with the one who tested positive can continue to work, but must be carefully monitored for the development of symptoms,’ she said.

In the case of a high-risk exposure, the employee must be placed in quarantine. A high-risk exposure is contact for more than 15 minutes and less than 1.5 metres apart, with the individuals not wearing protective equipment.

‘The employee’s absence following a high-risk exposure absence must be treated as sick leave,” said Laubscher. ‘If sick leave is exhausted, the employer might allow the employee to take annual leave, or special COVID-19 leave, at the discretion of the employer. If such leave options are not available and the employee develops symptoms, the employee may be able to claim illness benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund.’

Paid sick leave for employees who test positive

As soon as it comes to light that an employee is positive for COVID-19, the employer must notify the national Department of Health. If the person contracted the virus at the workplace, the Department of Employment and Labour must also be notified.

COVID-19-positive people must immediately be placed on paid sick leave, said Laubscher. ‘If they have exhausted their sick leave, they should apply for the illness benefit under the Unemployment Insurance Act.’

When the employee has recovered and is ready to work, there is no need for her or him to be tested again before returning to the workplace. ‘All the person needs, is a medical certificate confirming that she or he is fit and healthy to work again. There is no legal requirement for another test.’

This has been confirmed in the Directive issued by the Minister of Health on 11 August 2020, in terms of which repeat testing is not required for a person to de-isolate. This Directive also reduces the isolation period to 10 days. The Occupational Health and Safety Directive has, however, not yet been amended and this Directive still refers to the isolation period of 14 days.

In another recent development, the Minister of Employment and Labour has signed new directives on dealing with COVID-19-related Compensation Fund claims. The purpose is to provide clearer guidance on compensation for employees who contracted the virus at the workplace and to take new scientific developments into account.

 

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Covid-19 and the pandemic’s subsequent lockdowns forced the Shoprite Group, with more than 147 000 employees, to implement a work from home environment almost overnight, rapidly facilitating thousands of virtual meetings per day in order to keep operations running smoothly.

As Africa’s largest food retailer, many of the Group’s employees continued to report to work on shop floors around the country – but those whose jobs didn’t necessitate visiting a physical store, distribution centre or office, made the change to working from home.

“Shoprite immediately made the move towards a comprehensive work from home policy as soon as government mandated it,” explains David Cohn, General Manager: IT for the Group. “And it’s been remarkably successful – within 3 days we enabled over 2 000 people to work from home; making new tools and resources available and increasing cyber security quite significantly.

“At last count, we have approximately 2 384 scheduled virtual meetings each day. Informal online meetings are even more popular – with more than 135 874 taking place since the start of lockdown.

“At present, over 3 700 Shoprite employees actively participate in online meetings – and the total number of virtual meetings sits at more than 124 000 for the lockdown period,” says Cohn.

Implementing these changes required a comprehensive IT policy that Cohn says was complex but rewarding to integrate into daily work practices.

“As most South African businesses, we’d never considered having such a rapid and complete shift to a virtual working environment, and doing so came as a shock to the system. But, as an organisation with such an agile and resilient IT department we were more than up for the challenge,” Cohn continues.

“What has been uplifting is seeing how the level of connection between our employees has remained intact. By so quickly and painlessly enabling our staff to work remotely, they’ve been able to carry on seamlessly.

“It’s certainly not been without its challenges,” says Cohn. “But employees have taken to the concept with remarkable spirit and tenacity, and together we’ve managed to keep the Group fully focused, ensuring seamless operation for the thousands of customers who depend on us daily.”

By Jasmine Stone for 2oceansvibe

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) will start issuing auto-assessments from 1 August.

On May 5, SARS announced new tax filing seasons and a much more heavy-handed approach to companies who are not submitting their EMP501s and IRP5s timeously.

There will be a renewed focus to ensure that all employers are fully compliant in terms of their filing and payment obligations. In order to achieve higher compliance, SARS will interface with the National Population Register, the Companies Registrar, and the Deeds Office.

SARS has put in place a three-phased approach:

  • Phase 1 – April 15 to May 31 2020 – Employer and third-party filing
  • Phase 2 –June 1 to August 31 2020 – Taxpayers to update their files (Bank Acc, addresses etc) / SARS follow up with non-compliant Employers/Third-party data providers / Auto Assessment of certain taxpayers and possible early filing for some taxpayers
  • Phase 3 – September 1 to January 31 2021 – Tax filing for the remainder

Due dates for the submission of IRP5s and all third-party data (Bank interest certificates, Pension certificates, Medical certificates) is May 31, 2020. SARS has said that third-party data providers who remain wilfully non-compliant will be criminally charged during the period of June 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020.

In the two days prior to lockdown, SARS sent a number of notices warning employers who had filed their previous IRP5’s late, of criminal prosecution.

During the period up to August 31, SARS will auto-assess taxpayers who only have one IRP5. The taxpayers will have an opportunity to accept this auto-assessment, and if not accepted, will be required to submit their returns later.

It seems that SARS will allow certain taxpayers to file their returns before September 1, but only if their employers and third-party data providers are tax compliant. The wording used by SARS is, “individual taxpayers who are required to file but have not been auto-assessed may file early via on-line facilities if their employers & other third-party data providers are fully compliant (which includes no PAYE debt without a proper and secure deferment arrangement)”.

For all other taxpayers, SARS has delayed tax season to only open on September 1, whereas in previous years, it opened on the July 1. SARS will notify taxpayers to whom phase three filing applies.

It seems as though SARS strategy is to allow employees of tax-compliant companies to file early whilst employees of non-tax compliant employers will be required to wait until September 1 before they can file. This seems particularly harsh as this will probably hurt the hardest hit industries the most. This will also be a blow to taxpayers who were counting on submitting their tax returns as soon as possible in order to get their tax refunds.

Tax season deadlines for non-provisional taxpayers will be November 16, 2020 and provisional taxpayers will be January 31, 2021.

The pressure is on employers to ensure that all their returns are submitted and deferred payment arrangements are put in place if they are not able to pay.

Source: Business Insider SA

Bidvest, one of the largest companies in South Africa, has forced 70 000 of its staff, who can’t work during national lockdown, to take leave.

If they don’t have enough annual leave days available, this will be unpaid.

These employees will each get R2 000 from Bidvest – “specifically for food and other essentials”, according to a company statement. Bidvest will also apply for a new Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefit to “top up” salaries.

As part of the new Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief scheme (TERS), the UIF will pay out a maximum of R6,730 a month (for those earning more than R17 700) to staff in companies that are in distress during the lockdown.

TERS will work on the same principle as maternity benefits. If a company can still afford to pay employees a part of their salaries, the TERS money will “top up” these payments – but employees can’t earn more than 100% of their current salaries.

Bidvest owns a large group of diverse companies – including freight, security, car dealerships and office service subsidiaries – as well as a majority stake in pharmaceutical group Adcock Ingram. The company generated sales of R77-billion in the year to end-June 2019, and employs some 100 000 people in South Africa. Only 30 000 are currently working during the lockdown.

“Some Bidvest companies are classified as essential services, but the majority of companies – and therefore employees – are not. This has had a major impact on the ability of certain companies within the Group to continue earning any income and where this has been the case, management has had no option but to make the best possible and affordable remuneration arrangements,” a spokesperson told Business Insider SA.

Bidvest has given a commitment that no employees will be retrenched during this lockdown period, and staff received their full salaries for March. Executives in the company have agreed to a 40% pay cut during the lockdown.

“There are approximately 80 000 employees (of the 100 000 people employed in South Africa) that earn less than R10 000 a month. It is hoped, therefore, that the UIF payments together with the additional R2,000 per month, will ensure that the majority of Bidvest’s South African employees receive their full salary during the lockdown period.

“Employees who are not working will receive a minimum of R2 000 a month, nett payment, at the end of April, and thereafter if necessary. This is in addition to the UIF/TERS benefits that we are arranging for employees to ensure that they are not left destitute during this difficult time,” said Bidvest Group CEO Lindsay Ralphs.

Bidvest saw its profits climb by almost 10% to R4.6-billion for the year to end-June, and generated more than R7-billion in cash.

“Many other listed companies are trying to protect their employees during this time – even struggling companies are trying to pay their employees 20% of 30% of their salaries,” one affected Bidvest employee told Business Insider on Monday. “It would be different if Bidvest is broke, but this is a huge brand. They are trying to protect the shareholders at our expense.”

The hot desk has turned into a hot mess

Hot-desking, the idea that a desk in an office is used by many people whenever they find it free, has mushroomed in use over the past decade despite growing evidence that it’s unpopular with workers – and possibly bad for them too.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “The idea behind hot-desking is simple: you could save a lot of money by reducing the amount of expensive office space needed by sharing the large proportion of unused desks while people are away, in meetings or working elsewhere.

“Under-used office space in England and Wales for example costs businesses R200bn a year.”

She notes that while the cost savings ambitions are admirable the second tier effects of hot-desking haven’t been fully considered by some companies which have not adapted their offices to accommodate a style of working unfamiliar to many.

“We’ve noticed that workers often have to spend time finding somewhere to sit and can spend as much as 18 minutes a day on average looking for a spot. Clearly this is unproductive, and particularly impacts those who have arrived later to work. It can mean once someone has finally found a desk they are already quite stressed before the workday has even begun.”

While hot-desking suits some people, it can adversely affect the many staff who have to be in the office each day and need to know they’ve got everything they need where they need it.

Not knowing where the people you need to collaborate with are sitting can impair productivity too. “Often a query can be solved much quicker by simply going over to a coworker’s desk, rather than relying on email ping-pong. But that can’t happen if you’re wandering the floor trying to find them,” says Galloway-Gaul.

“In many workplaces now, poor acoustics and lack of visual privacy are a major concern but fixable,” she notes.

Hot-desking isn’t complete disaster because employers could be doing a lot more to make it work better for everyone – by looking into acoustic treatments for noisy open-plan offices and ensuring there’s a decent balance of collaborative and private work areas.

“Rows of open-plan space with hundreds of desks is not appealing to anyone,” she says.

“Companies need to be rethink how people move, create and collaborate and translate that into a thoughtfully designed place.”

Galloway-Gaul recommended companies use use light-scale, light-weight, easily movable furniture which allows teams to feel empowered to take over the space and easily create a space that best suits their needs.

Another suggestion is to combine furniture and technology in a way that encourages equal contribution by all members of a team.

“Companies also need enable privacy and control over the environment to provide a ‘safe haven’ spaces where new ideas can incubate,” she concluded.

In an effort to support a healthier and more productive workforce, employers increasing spend on well-intentioned wellness programmes such as onsite gyms and standing desks.

But Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, said while employees do like the extra facilities, “they want the basics first” – which is something companies tend to forget.

“Employees want better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalise their workspace more than anything else. It makes sense: these factors are the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness and wellbeing.

“We are increasingly asked to consult to CEOs of South African businesses on how to improve poor workspaces which prevent people and companies from progressing. For them it’s become a pressing need to have people-first workspaces.”

A high-quality workplace can reduce absenteeism up to four days a year. This can have a major impact on the bottom line. Employees who are satisfied with their work environments are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay, and 30% more attracted to their company over competitors.

Here are three steps you can take to improve your work environments and the wellbeing of your employees:

    • Stop spending on barely used office perks. “A good rule of thumb is to never assume that you know what your employees want — but instead, find ways to ask them,” Trim advised. They might then put less emphasis on office perks that only a minority of employees will take advantage of (like an onsite gym), and more on changes in the workplace environment that impact all employees like air quality and access to light. Interestingly, we find that many employees want a view of the outdoors.
    • Personalise when possible. We’ve all gotten used to personalising our outside-of-work lives. We watch the shows we want to watch and listen to the music we like to hear. “Employees are beginning to expect these same privileges in the workplace,” Trim noted. “Specifically, employees want to personalise workplace temperature, overhead and desk lighting and noise levels.”
      Research by global acoustics company St Gobain, which Giant Leap partnered with for a recent installation, showed that good acoustics could mean a 15% reduction in cognitive stress for office workers working in an open plan office. American technology company Cisco manages the acoustic levels in their space by creating a floor plan without assigned seating that includes neighbourhoods of workspaces designed specifically for employees collaborating in person, remotely, or those who choose to work alone.
      Others companies like US biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals allow employees to control natural light streaming in through their office windows with a cell phone app. “The same strategy applies to light or temperature. You can position employees who want a higher temperature and more light around the edge of your floor plan, and those who like it quieter and cooler in the core,” Trim said.
    • Create a holistic view of workplace wellness. Workplace wellness includes physical wellness, emotional wellness, and environmental wellness.All three need consideration:
  1. Emotional wellness – give employees access to natural light , and quiet rooms where they can comfortably focus on their work.
  2. Physical wellness – provide people with healthy food options, and ergonomically designed work stations.
  3. Environmental wellness – make sure your workspaces have adequate air quality, light, temperature, and proper acoustics.

Big tech companies no longer attractive employers

By Jessica Stillman for Inc.com

Look at any list of America’s most in-demand employers from the last decade and you’ll find it’s dotted with big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. This prominence, coupled with these firm’s legendary perks and generous pay, might lead you to believe the best and brightest tech talent is knocking down the door to work there.

But according to a handful of fascinating recent reports, the appeal of working at big tech companies is actually on the wane.

The “techlash” comes to college campuses
A parade of ethics scandals, from Facebook’s disinformation problem to Google’s troubles with sexual harassment and Chinese censorship, combined with younger generations’ commitment to working for companies that align with their values, has made going to work for big tech something of an embarrassment at many of America’s elite universities, Emma Goldberg writes in the New York Times.

College seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.

Many students still see employment in tech as a ticket to prosperity, but for job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries.

“Working at Google or Facebook seemed like the coolest thing ever my freshman year, because you’d get paid a ton of money but it was socially responsible,” reports one senior Goldberg interviews. Now, “there’s more hesitation about the moral qualities of these jobs. It’s like how people look at Wall Street.”

Another grad, this one from Stanford, relates that when fellow students announce they’re going to work for the likes of Facebook there is “an awkward gap where they feel like they have to justify themselves.”

Working on Wall Street, of course, hardly makes you a pariah, nor are financial firms unable to attract smart young people. But tech companies once enjoyed rock star-like appeal. To find themselves suddenly consigned to the same uncool category as the amoral (at best) finance industry is a big come down.

And Goldberg has numbers to back up this reputational slide. Pew research shows that the percentage of Americans who believe tech companies have a positive impact has fallen from 71 percent just five years ago to 50 percent in 2019. A former recruiter for Facebook revealed the acceptance rates for job offers is down around 40 percent.

Nor is Goldberg the only reporter digging into the story. April Glaser wrote a deep dive into anti-big tech activism at Stanford for Slate last summer. She describes how various groups are warning classmates about the ethical lapses of potential employers, including handing out leaflets at career fairs. Others are nudging computer science grads towards more ethical gigs at non-profits.

A headache for Big Tech, an opportunity for others
For big tech all this is definitely a headache (and possibly a wakeup call). For smaller companies without the ethical entanglements of the industry’s biggest players, it’s an opportunity to win exceptional talent at slighting less eye-watering cost by framing your work as a force for good. Finally, for tech-savvy employees, the so-called “techlash” may represent a dawning realization of their own power.

“Tech companies can hire new cafeteria workers and gig economy drivers, but talented software engineers, security researchers, and mathematicians are in short supply,” Boing Boing points out. “They have incredible leverage over the Big Tech companies, and, as they start to build solidarity with their users and more easily replaced co-workers, they have it within their power to bring Big Tech to its knees.”

SA’s average annual salary increase

Source: MyBroadband

P-E Corporate Services has released its 2019/2020 Salary Trends report, which shows the average salary increase in South Africa over the last year was 6.2%.

The P-E Corporate Services Salary Trends report is based on over 500 benchmarked positions across all industries.

The data is gathered from over 800 organisations employing in excess of 1.5-million staff, representing over 10% of South Africa’s economically-active population.

The report also provides market data for different levels of staff in South Africa, from lower-level income to middle/line management.

The report stated that the average salary increase was 6.2%, down from 6.4% the previous year.

While there has been a downward trend in annual salary increases in South Africa, inflation has also decreased during the period.

When adjusted for inflation, the average salary increases in South Africa have improved over the past five years.

The 2019/2020 Salary Trends report further revealed that construction staff received the lowest average increase at 5.8%.

Employees in the information technology sector also saw a consistent decline in salary increases over the past five years – down from 7.2% in 2015 to 6.5% last year.

Employees at state-owned enterprises, however, received the highest average salary increase at 7.1%. This was significantly higher than most private companies.

 

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