Managing staff leave

Managing staff leave

Employees face a two-fold risk if they do not take the leave they are legally entitled to. Firstly, they could forfeit their leave after a pre-determined period, depending on their company policy. Secondly, they could be diagnosed with burn out and be placed on extended sick leave. This places the organisation at significant financial risk, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

According to legislation, five-day week workers are entitled to 21 consecutive days annual leave on full pay in a leave cycle. This translates to 15 working days per annum if the employee works for five days a week, and 18 working days if they work a six-day week.

Leave pay should be paid before the leave starts or, if agreed, on the usual payday. If an employee resigns, they must be paid for any leave accrued but not taken, at a rate of one day’s pay for every 17 days worked, unless the policy allows for more leave. The law also stipulates that an employer must grant annual leave not later than six months after the annual leave cycle. This usually refers to a period of 12 months, commencing from the first day of employment or from the end of the previous leave cycle.

According to Myburgh, many leave policies do not cater for staff not taking their annual leave. “This could result in a huge liability of accumulated annual leave. For example, if an employee has accumulated 100 days of leave and resigns, this must be paid out on termination. Translating to the equivalent of several months’ salary, it is an expense which very few organisations can afford.”

Policy changes

Myburgh recommends that the company leave policy must therefore be regularly reviewed to ensure it remains in line with operational requirements. “One of the reasons policies include a leave forfeiture clause is to motivate staff to go on leave,” he says.

A trend has emerged where employees are paid in lieu of taking holiday. This is not in accordance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, says Myburgh. “According to legislation, a company cannot pay out leave except on termination of employment.”

Unpaid leave, however, is legal,” he points out. “This could see a company reduce an employee’s salary by the value of one day’s annual leave for every day’s unpaid leave. Essentially, the employee is purchasing a day’s annual leave.”

Encouragement

Companies should strive to create a culture of caring for their staff, and employee engagement, which includes encouraging them to take leave.

“Policies must be put in place to force staff to go on leave while being cognisant of workloads. An employee might have accumulated a considerable amount of leave but has so much work to complete that they would rather forfeit their leave than get behind in their work,” says Myburgh.

“Employers can, at the very least, be more accommodating regarding their employees’ expected work output and put measures in place that make it easier for employees to go on leave without having to stress about uncompleted work.

“Some businesses also implement an annual shutdown, which sees the company closing (typically between Christmas and New Year) completely so that no one is able to work. Consequently, staff are forced to take leave during this time.”

In such an instance, the employer is entitled to stipulate that annual leave must be taken to coincide with the shutdown period. Should an employee take their annual leave at another time during the year, then the shutdown period will be treated as unpaid leave.

“Irrespective of the strategy employed, companies must do everything in their power to encourage their employees to take their annual leave. Not only is it beneficial for the individual and limits the possibility of burnout, it also mitigates financial risk for the business,” Myburgh concludes.

As always, CRS Technologies is available to assist clients. For more information and advice, contact info@crs.co.za

fired for office gossip

ENCA interview: Can you be fired for office gossip?

Nicol Myburgh, the head of human resources company CRS Technologies, explains the intricacies of what is appropriate in the workplace. Courtesy

JOHANNESBURG – Three male colleagues were fired for commenting on their female co-workers during a company outing.

A co-worker reported the men — who had been ranking their female colleagues on a “hot list” — to the company’s HR department.

They were subsequently dismissed.

Employers have a right to a harmonious workplace

Nicol Myburgh, head of human resources company CRS Technologies, said, “employers have a right to a harmonious workplace, anything that disrupts that harmony is actionable and can actually lead to a dismissal.

“I’m not saying to the extent of a dismissal, everything is on a case-to-case basis but anything that affects the harmony at the business, that’s definitely actionable.”

Myburgh referred to the example and pointed out that the conversation between the men could have been exacerbated by the kind of comments they were making, which could be interpreted as sexual harassment.

Watch the interview:  https://www.enca.com/analysis/can-you-be-fired-office-gossip

Sexual harassment – A workplace problem not going away

Employment equity needs more than lip service

The evolving regulatory landscape in South Africa means companies must ensure they do everything possible to maintain an equal and fair working environment.

According to Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, recent changes to the Employment Equity (EEA4) document for annual reporting will force companies to report on the vertical remuneration gap within their organisation, i.e. the difference in salary between a company’s highest and lowest paid earners.

“Essentially, government is trying to identify the extent of the wage gap at each company and whether a policy is in place to address it,” he says.

Another proposed change, which was recently presented to Parliament, deals with the definition of ‘designated employer’. Currently, this is defined as a company consisting of more than 50 employees, or with an annual turnover threshold for its industry. The proposed new definition will exclude the turnover threshold.

“This will certainly make it easier for SMMEs to operate in as they no longer need to report on employment equity requirements (EE),” says Myburgh. “However, failure to report will prevent them from being issued with a compliance certificate, without which they will not be able to apply for government tenders. Consequently, SMMEs may choose to voluntarily comply with the new requirements, especially if their continued success relies on doing business with the public sector.”

Target practice

Government is also considering implementing sectoral EE targets for businesses to achieve.

“Previously, companies had to comply with the country’s demographics to achieve EE, but now every sector will have its own set of targets to achieve, which will be split between top management all the way down to unskilled workers,” Myburgh explains.

“It is not yet clear how government will determine these targets, but it will have to consider the specific skills set that exists within each sector, as some sectors require a higher set of skills than others.”

Common sense

Practically speaking, EE seeks to eliminate discrimination for any reason, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, language, religion, politics, or any other arbitrary reason such as hair colour.

“Ultimately, it comes down to businesses not putting on a front but complying with EE in accordance with legislation. Failure to have the correct policies, procedures, and practices in place is a barrier to EE. Additionally, it is critically important that employees are educated on what it means to discriminate unfairly and the various grounds thereof. The financial impact of non-compliance is too significant to risk,” Myburgh concludes.

As always, CRS Technologies is available to assist clients. For more information and advice, contact us

Sexual harassment – A workplace problem not going away

Sexual harassment – A workplace problem not going away

Sexual harassment in the South African workplace is more prevalent than many might care to admit, but false accusations are muddying the waters of those with legitimate claims, according to Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

“False accusations around sexual harassment are always malicious and usually motivated by a desire for attention or material gain,” he says. “The negative impact of false allegations on the accused’s life are monumental, to say the least. Not only are their careers ruined and family relationships damaged, but they also suffer extreme mental trauma.”

In 2017, well-known actor Kevin Spacey faced allegations of sexual misconduct. This resulted in a snowball effect where his role in a popular TV series was cancelled and other work opportunities all but disappeared for him. Around two years later the original accuser dropped the civil action filed against the actor and the case was dismissed. Despite Spacey’s exoneration, the impact on his life has been profound.

Falsely claiming sexual harassment is a criminal offence and the consequences of such actions should be the same as for any other charge of dishonesty in a company,” says Myburgh. “The accuser must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and be dismissed from his place of employment.”

Understanding harassment

Despite the potential for false accusations, sexual harassment remains a very real problem that must be addressed. A report released by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) reveals that of the sexual discrimination referrals which came before the commission between 2015 and 2018, almost 77% of complainants were female. Additionally, 30% of women and 18% of men reported unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. A staggering 92% of sexual discrimination referrals are either settled at conciliation or are not pursued to arbitration.

Sexual harassment refers to any unwanted sexual attention,” Myburgh explains. “This can range from a lustful stare or gaze to any comment made about a person’s body or part of their body. It can also be something that happens indirectly. For example, female employees may choose not to attend a social gathering after work because of family responsibilities. The event could be considered discriminatory as it takes place after hours.”

Policy management

The Employment Equity Act and its Code of Good Practice contain information on handling sexual harassment cases in the workplace. However, a new Code of Good Practice, based on the International Labour Organisation Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment and Recommendation 206 on Lustful Gazes, is expected to be released next year.

“These best practice changes have been implemented as a result of the current climate of exposure when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment. Just think about cases involving the likes of Roger Ailes, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Bob Hewitt.”

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to sexual harassment, but the Code of Good Practice on Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases in the Workplace does provide a guiding light.

Its objective is to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and provide appropriate procedures to deal with and prevent its reoccurrence. The code encourages and promotes the development and implementation of policies and procedures that lead to the creation of workplaces that are free from sexual harassment where employers and employees respect one another’s integrity and dignity, their privacy, and the right to equality in the workplace.

The code further states that employers should develop clear procedures that deal with sexual harassment. These procedures should enable resolution of the problem in a sensitive, efficient and effective way.

“When a claim of sexual harassment is made, it is important to gather as much information about the purported incident as possible,” says Myburgh. “The company must find out from the victim what was said or done, when was it said or done, where it was said or done, who was present, and whether any evidence exists. Only then should the accused be approached and informed of the accusation.”

The accused should be permitted to view the evidence and offered an opportunity to respond. Any evidence to the contrary, as well as a denial or admission to the accusation should also be obtained.

“If the accused admits to the claim, or if there is enough evidence to prosecute, the company can either proceed with prosecution or commence with a counselling session,” Myburgh continues. “This entails informing the accused that the behaviour is inappropriate or was perceived as inappropriate. The person should be informed about the regulations pertaining to sexual harassment and that such behaviour cannot happen again. If the conduct is serious enough, the next step is a disciplinary hearing or prosecution.”

Challenging times

Having a policy is little consolation for someone who is experiencing harassment, Myburgh notes. “The biggest obstacle any organisation faces is being unaware that sexual harassment is taking place. This usually happens because the victim does not report it, not always because they are scared into submission, but because they are embarrassed.”

If the HR department is unable to deal with the situation correctly, for any reason, there are other avenues for victims to follow. “Report the incident to the CCMA or Labour Court,” Myburgh advises. “These entities could issue a compliance order.”

“Another challenge is a lack of understanding of what sexual harassment constitutes. Employees could be completely unaware that they are acting or speaking in an offensive manner. Consequently, companies should offer gender-based sensitivity training to educate their employees on how people perceive certain actions and words.”

Steps taken

Employees should not stand for any form of harassment, Myburgh adds. “The longer it is tolerated and ignored, the longer it will continue. Additionally, there must be reporting avenues for victims as well as whistle blowers so that anyone who witnesses sexual harassment is free to report it without being discriminated against.

“Employers must send a strong message that sexual harassment is not acceptable and will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Companies need to implement strong policies and procedures that advocate zero tolerance and promise immediate action,” Myburgh concludes.

As always, CRS Technologies is available to assist clients. For more information and advice, contact info@crs.co.za

Zambia’s new National Health Insurance Fund now enforced

Effective 1 Oct 2019 – Zambia’s new National Health Insurance Fund now enforced

Businesses in Zambia must take cognisance of the country’s new National Health Insurance Fund, effective 1 October 2019, which not only requires employers to register their employees, but also that both employers and employees contribute to the fund.

The fund, applicable via statutory instrument no.63 (following approval of the National Health Insurance Act 2018 in April 2018) affords specific responsibilities to employers and employees.

Specialist provider of human capital management solutions CRS Technologies believes the Zambian labour market has arrived at a critical juncture. General Manager Ian McAlister explains the significance of the development.

Southern African countries remain under pressure

“An employer must register an employee with the National Insurance Management Authority as a member. An employee means any person who has entered into or works under a contract of service, whether the contract is expressed or implied, is verbal or in writing, and whether the remuneration is calculated by time or work done or is in cash or kind. Persons employed under a contract of apprenticeship made in accordance with the Apprenticeship Act, or a casual employee cannot be registered as a member.”

Given that the economies of Southern African countries remain under pressure – as is the case with most across the continent – cost reduction, capital flow, revenue generation and job creation are all priorities, McAlister continues.

“This is relevant because the fund requires that employers pay a contribution to the scheme consisting of both the employer and employee’s contribution.”

Both employers and employees must pay 1% of their basic salaries, and the employer must pay the contributions deducted in a month on or before the 10th of the following month.

Be aware of the type of information that needs to be reported

McAlister advises companies to be aware of the type of information that needs to be reported. “This is because specifications regarding the reporting are not set out in the statutory instrument.”

Full details, including name, business references, NRC or passport numbers, employment number, marital status, number of employees and contact details must be supplied.

As always, CRS Technologies is available to assist clients. For more information and advice, contact info@crs.co.za

Legislation and compliance a critical part of HR and payroll software

Legislation and compliance a critical part of HR and payroll software

No HR and payroll solution is complete without a comprehensive legislation and compliance advisory service, states CRS Technologies General Manager Ian McAlister.

“Tax authorities are becoming more meticulous than ever before, and legislative compliance is critical to the growth and success of any business,” he says. “Companies that invest in an HR and payroll solution which does not include a legislation, compliance and tax advisory service run the risk of incurring harsh penalties when it comes to tax returns or any other regulatory submissions. For example, the cost of non-compliance with South Africa’s employment equity legislation starts at R1.5 million.”

A deep understanding of the inherent complexities of labour, tax and related frameworks

CRS’s advisory service is specifically geared to helping business add value while minimising risk.

“CRS has a deep understanding of the inherent complexities of labour, tax and related frameworks, not only in South Africa, but also other African countries and the Middle East,” McAlister explains. “Our centre of expertise comprises a highly respected team of consultants who oversee statutory compliance, unravel the jargon and keep decision-makers informed and protected on an up-to-the minute basis.”

This includes:

  • Statutory deductions
  • Social security
  • Levies
  • Employee entitlements (leave, bonuses, allowances)
  • Statutory returns
  • Fringe benefit tax
  • Income tax
  • Advice on labour legislation, contracts, policies and procedures, unions and dismissals
  • HR and payroll audits
  • HR and payroll country fact sheets and requirements

Additionally, CRS offers a tax advisory service to its HR and payroll clients, through its partnership with Tax Debt Compliance, an experienced SARS negotiation team.

For more info, click here to contact us

CRS assists SARS-embattled clients with tax advisory service

How CRS assists SARS-embattled clients with tax advisory service

In the current economic climate many cash-strapped businesses find themselves unable to pay their outstanding tax debt to SARS. Some try to put the problem on hold by not submitting a tax return, but according to Ian McAlister, General Manager of CRS Technologies, not only are the penalties for doing this severe and the interest charges really high, it’s also illegal.

“CRS has recently encountered new clients who’ve fallen foul of SARS through inadequate legislation and compliance assistance from their payroll supplier. Our solution was to forge an alliance with Tax Debt Compliance which offers a range of tax relief mechanisms that quickly puts the company back on track. Thereafter the way forward is painless.”

The tax relief mechanisms include:

  • Negotiation of affordable instalment agreements with SARS on behalf of the business;
  • Compromise applications to SARS which, if approved, will enable the business to settle tax debt at a reduced amount;
  • Tax due diligences to ensure compliance with South African tax legislation;
  • Formulation of tax opinions for businesses considering entering into complex transactions that could hold significant tax consequences.

Clients retain their assets and maintain their business operations

“The team at Tax Debt Compliance have many years of experience in this field,” McAlister continues. “To date, the company boasts a 100 per cent success rate in which it has helped numerous clients retain their assets and maintain their business operations.

“Companies can now focus on running their business with the peace of mind that their legislation, compliance and tax issues are in the capable hands of CRS Technologies and Tax Debt Compliance,” he concludes.

For more information, contact CRS by:  clicking here

 

CRS Engage platform builds a more engaged workforce

How the CRS Engage platform builds a more engaged workforce

Human capital management specialist CRS Technologies has launched its employee engagement solution, Engage, which is designed to provide organisations with an innovative resource management and reporting platform.

Engage empowers HR practitioners with the insights required to ensure employees are aligned with the company purpose by clearly defining their roles to accomplish it. It features a full designation library with standard job descriptions that can be customised according to business requirements.

Research indicates that customers’ experience of a business begins with how its employees experience it,” says Ian McAlister, General Manager at CRS Technologies. “By creating an engaged workforce, the business can deliver on the moments that matter and gain significant differentiation in a highly competitive market.”

More geared towards creating an employee experience

As such, HR has become less about implementing processes and is today more geared towards creating an employee experience that drives sustainable business performance.

“Companies need to find new ways of tapping into the potential of their workforce,” says McAlister. “They require a platform that allows them to easily set goals and expectations while having real-time insights into performance reporting. This means having complete transparency about the obstacles employees face and finding more effective ways to overcome them. This is the true value that Engage delivers.”

At a fundamental level, Engage reimagines the employee experience in a digital-centric way. This means giving them access to an easy-to-use interface on their smartphones where they are not only able to manage leave, access pay slips and so on, but also track their performance. “This ensures employees always have sight of what must be achieved, include insight into areas of their jobs where they can improve and better align to the broader organisational strategy,” says McAlister.

Keeps employees motivated and aligned

Team performance and management for short-term and ad hoc projects can be easily tracked, providing employees and management with all the relevant information at a glance. This creates a healthy, competitive environment internally where teams will strive to reach their respective goals faster and more effectively.

“Giving employees this information keeps them motivated and aligned with the overarching organisational vision. They feel more in control of what must be accomplished and how to do so. Additionally, a platform like Engage can deliver better employee commitment, resulting in reduced staff turnover. It is all about taking care of the organisation’s most valuable asset – its people,” says McAlister.

The CRS Engage platform is available for demonstration with more details – contact us by clicking here.

Managing a multi-generational workforce

Addressing the challenges associated with managing a multi-generational workforce

Each generation has different work expectations. How can organisations address this challenge effectively without compromising on its core values? Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, believes that while a standardised approach is ill advised, there are other opportunities to become more attentive to the requirements of a multi-generational workforce.

“Every generation has its own value system and way of working,” he explains. “Some of the millennial value drivers include receiving praise, being rewarded for participating, and the need to feel valued. Baby Boomers have a strong work ethic, are competitive, self-assured and independent, and unafraid of a hard day’s work.”

“Some might argue that one of the reasons behind these differences is that Baby Boomers had to work hard for everything they achieved and did not want their children to go through the same struggles they experienced. Consequently, they gave their children everything they wanted. Unfortunately, this cultivated a sense of entitlement.”

“Managing these differences can be extremely challenging. Baby Boomers sometimes view Millennials as being disrespectful even though the latter might not feel this is the case. Another example is that Baby Boomers were taught that it is essential to acknowledge mistakes made and as far as possible, correct them. Millennials, on the other hand, look for ways to hide their mistakes.”

Changing ways

Despite the criticism millennials face, one of the most often overlooked benefits of the new generation is that they can teach themselves.

Millennials rely heavily on sites such as YouTube to acquire skills they do not have when they need them. This can be something as simplistic as changing a flat tyre or more complex such as servicing a car. This negates the need for formal qualifications or having to rely on another expert to teach them.

“It’s simply a matter of doing a quick search online to find out how to do something,” says Myburgh. “Of course, there needs to be an understanding of how to effectively search for something online and which paths to follow to get the results in the shortest time possible.”

Separation anxiety

The evolution of technology has also resulted in the creation of a mobile workforce.

This means the various generations can be physically separated from one another. It is also an effective way of avoiding confrontations that could develop as a result of differing value systems, approaches to work, and so on.

Typically, older generations prefer their own office, while millennials enjoy working in an open plan environment.

“But even though splitting the generations might be an effective tactic, decision-makers should focus on teaching the different groups to respect one another’s differences and focus instead on their respective strengths,” Myburgh points out. “Creating a more collaborative work environment will bring its own benefits, especially as companies look to digitally transform themselves. Linking the generations together might just be the best way to do so.”

The impact of cannabis in the workplace

The impact of cannabis in the workplace

Even though the use of cannabis in the home is now legal, the potential exists for employees to arrive at work under the influence. Most company policies cater for the use of illegal substances while at work, but these need to be updated to reflect the new regulations, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

Studies have shown that cannabis can affect an employee’s occupational capacity in various ways. This includes performing tasks more slowly, performing poorly when handling routine, monotonous tasks, and difficulty in multi-tasking, taking instructions from superiors, making crucial decisions and operating machinery and/or motor vehicles.

“This means that, as with alcohol usage, companies can legally prohibit employees from taking cannabis in the workplace. After all, it’s their company and they control the rules. It is therefore important to include these restrictions in a policy, employment contracts, or even enforce it as a standard rule,” he says.

“Even if a business does not have a policy explicitly prohibiting this, action can still be taken against someone who smokes cannabis at the office, because common sense dictates it is not acceptable behaviour,” Myburgh adds.

Taking the test

What happens if an employee uses cannabis at their private residence and arrives at the office under the influence?

“From a policy perspective, there is no difference between taking cannabis and drinking at home. Consequently, the approach is the same as if the employee arrived at work under the influence. Of course, the challenge lies in proving that the employee is under the influence of cannabis while at work. Fortunately, there are various tests available that can detect the substance for months after use, and a saliva test can identify cannabis in the system for up to 24 hours.”

Myburgh points out, however, that even if a saliva test shows positive for cannabis, this does not necessarily mean that the employee is unable to work. “The test has merely proved that the employee used cannabis in the last 24 hours, which in itself is not an offence. The employee is only guilty if it can be proven that he or she is under the influence of cannabis.”

And while alcohol has a legal limit associated with its use, a saliva test for cannabis does not measure the extent to which the substance affects a person.

Legal route

“Criminal law dictates that a crime must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but labour legislation relies on the balance of probabilities,” Myburgh continues.

For example, if an employee arrives at work showing clear symptoms of being under the influence of cannabis, and a saliva test proves usage over the last 24 hours, based on the balance of probabilities, the chain of events will in all likelihood lead to a guilty verdict and the employee could be dismissed.

Changing environment

Medical testing of employees remains regulated by Schedule 7 of the Employment Equity Act, which states: “Medical testing of employees is permitted if it is justifiable in light of medical facts, employment conditions, social policy, the fair distribution of employee benefits and inherent requirements of the job.”

It could be argued that it is an inherent job requirement to not be under the influence of any mind-altering substance, making the case for cannabis testing.

“A company could therefore legally require employees to undergo a test that could potentially strengthen its position in a disciplinary hearing, but this does not necessarily mean the company will be able to dismiss the employee, even if he or she tests positive. It all depends on the accompanying symptoms.”

Workplace policies should explicitly state the repercussions for arriving at the work under the influence, whether this is from alcohol usage, cannabis, or any other mind-altering substance.

“Considering that cannabis is no longer an illegal drug, company policies must be adapted to encompass employees being under the influence of mind-altering substances. Alternatively, the alcohol usage policy should be expanded to include cannabis,” Myburgh concludes.