24 Hours’ Notice …Wham Bam Thank You Mam THERE seems to be a new practice creeping in among employees who wish to terminate their employment with an employer. In most cases employees are bound to provide the employer with one month’s written notice. Sometimes it is stipulated in the employment contract merely as one month or four weeks, and in other cases it is stipulated as one calendar month. Whatever the case, the undesirable practice creeping in is that employees are ignoring this contractual requirement. They either tender 24 hours of notice, or in some cases are tendering the contractual notice period in writing but then walk out and simply do not return to work. The employer is then left stranded without an employee to do the work in the vacated post, and the employee in fact is now in breach of contract. It has always in the past been the practice for the employer to deduct one month’s salary from the final payout due to the employee, but in many cases the employee tenders 24 hours notice the day after payday, and in many cases there is no leave pay due and thus the employer is left high and dry with no means of recovering his losses, if any. The question is, how illegal is this practice of the employee walking out on 24 hours’ notice? The answer is that it is totally illegal – unless the employee has been employed for four weeks or less as per section 29 1 (b) of the Labour Act, Act 15 of 2004. The employer must handle this in terms of breach of contract. In order to protect the company, employers must stipulate in the employment contract that should the employee terminate the employment contract without tendering the written contractual notice period, then the employer will deduct from the final payment to the employee an amount equal to the period of notice NOT given. By including this as a stipulation in the contract of employment, it becomes part of the agreement between employer and employee, and it becomes a condition of employment. The employee is then legally bound to follow and should he/she not do so, the employer can make the deduction accordingly. If this condition is not stipulated in the employment contract, the employer may not deduct any monies from the final payment due to the employee but must pay the employee in full. The employer may sue the employee civilly (in terms of breach of contract) for any damages the employer may wish to recover. The problem is, and especially with lower paid employees, that the amount to be claimed will in many cases be far less than the amount of the legal costs incurred in the recovery. Thus, one finds that the employer will end up by simply ignoring the matter and will lose out. It is far wiser for the employer to protect himself in a written contract. There are those employers who never provide their employees with any form of written contract, and these employers will have a problem should the above occasion arise. Until next time, Yours in HR Copyright ÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒ…ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© 2005 Price-waterhouseCoopers. All rights reserved. Pricewater-houseCoopers refers to the individual member firms of the worldwide PricewaterhouseCoopers organization.
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