Each case must be decided on its own merits, and the general principles whether Dismissal for Misconduct is appropriate and should be applied.

Absence from work

Employees are expected to be at their workplaces during working hours, unless they have an adequate reason to be absent. Wilful absence from work constitutes a breach of contract and may justify summary termination of the contract. A distinction is usually drawn between absenteeism, abscondment and/or desertion. Absenteeism, in turn, can be divided into late coming, absences from an employee’s workstation, and absences from the workplace itself for short periods. Abscondment is deemed to have occurred when the employee is absent from work for a time that warrants the inference that the employee does not intend to return to work. Desertion is deemed to have taken place when the employee has actually intimated expressly or by implication that he does not intend to return to work. The longer the period of absence, the more justified an employer will be in terminating the contract. Brief absences from work rarely warrant dismissal.

Disciplinary codes normally treat absenteeism on a graduated scale when it comes to penalties; on the first occasion, the employee is issued with a verbal warning, or counselled; on the second occasion, the employee is given a written warning; on the third, a final written warning. Dismissal is normally justified only if employees fail to heed final warnings. However, in such cases, the employer must still prove that the final absence did in fact amount to absenteeism. The elements of the offence of absenteeism are that the employee must have been absent from work at a time when the employee was contractually obliged to render service, and that the employee had no reasonable excuse for his absence. Some disciplinary codes add a further element to the offence: employees must have failed to inform the employer immediately of the reason for their absence.

Like all offences, absenteeism requires fault on the part of the perpetrator. Employees absent because they are seriously ill or in a coma, or in jail, or because public transport failed to arrive, cannot be said to be at fault. Employees’ who fail to contact their employers during their absence, if they can do so, may find it difficult to persuade their employers that they had good reason to be away. Employees accused of absconding are entitled to be heard before their contracts are terminated, provided that the employer is aware of the employees’ whereabouts, and the employees wish to present their cases.

For further information on any labour related matters, you can contact
Bernard Reisner:

For further information or any labour related matters, you can contact Bernard Reisner:
W.Tel no.: 021-423-3959
Cell: 082-433-8714
Fax: 021-4232105
E-mail: bernard@capelabour.co.za
Website: www.capelabour.co.za