Of all the things to worry about, absenteeism can give business owners, managers and supervisors sleepless nights. Having an empty office and needing to hand off work to other employees, or deal with it yourself, can be stressful. Here is how to handle employee absenteeism at work.
South African labour law requires all discipline to be corrective rather than punitive. When an employer disciplines an employee twice for the very same incident of misconduct, the CCMA is likely to see this as punitive.
South African employers often lose at CCMA and bargaining councils in cases relating to fixed-term contracts. A key reason for this is that employers do not understand the legal purpose of fixed-term contracts and the circumstances under which they are safe to implement or terminate.
An increasing number of cases are being reported of employees being fired for being absent from work, outside of annual leave and sick leave. A recent case concerning the public broadcaster has brought the issue under the spotlight.
Employees employed in a sector falling outside of the scope of a trade union's constitution, may still be represented by that trade union in dismissal disputes. However, as previously held by the Labour Court, such representation does not include an entitlement to bargain collectively with an employer on behalf of those employees.
In order to optomise the corrective effect of discipline it needs to be implemented as swiftly as possible. This does not mean that the disciplinary process must be carried out hastily. It does mean that, psychologically and legally, unnecessary delays must be avoided.
The Department of Employment and Labour Is calling on employers to take action to stop harassment in the workplace. This comes after more than 1000 disputes were referred to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over the last year.
Where businesses and other organisations are unable to get work done by robots they need to acquire the necessary skills by hiring staff. A key question then arises as to whether the money expended in order to acquire and retain these employee skills should be seen as an expense or as an investment.
The law considers absenteeism over short periods (a day or two) without leave or without good reason as minor misconduct. However, when even short periods of absence become the norm amongst a workforce this can constitute an extremely serious problem for the employer.
Presenteeism, being physically present at work but mentally absent and unproductive due to illness, injury, stress or burnout, comes at a greater economic cost than absenteeism, and during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has not only increased but gone digital and virtual.
Absent employees do constitute a problem for employers, particularly is the absence is frequently repeated. The employer is required, however, to ensure that the rights of absent employees are adhered to - before dismissing them from the company. Ivan Israelstam explains that the courts have repeatedly confirmed - an employee cannot dismiss themselves. So before taking the decision to dismiss an employee, it is necessary for employers to do everything possible to make contact with the absent employee, and to advise them of their rights to a hearing.
Employers deal with a range of issues related to illness, for example: a genuinely ill employee who obtains a certificate from a bogus medical practitioner, or a traditional healer; or an employee who is not ill at all but obtains a fake medical certificate; or an employee who was ill but who extends the time given on a genuine certificate by altering the date - such as from a 1 to an 11 to obtain more days off. This week Ivan Israelstam explains the approach of CCMA Commissioners, and when disciplinary action may be taken.