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Case law: Don't fork out 24 month's worth of salary because you fired a disabled employee incorrectly!

by , 27 December 2013
If you're not sure of how the courts deal with the dismissal of disabled employees, read on to find out how the case of Standard Bank of South Africa vs. CCMA & others was handled. It'll help avoid forking out a 24 month's salary like they did.

You must follow a fair procedure when dismissing a disabled employee. One of the critical things you must do is to reasonably accommodate him.

If you overlook this, you'll learn the hard way just like Standard Bank.

In that groundbreaking case: Standard Bank of South Africa vs. CCMA & others, the Labour Court said the employer didn't reasonably accommodate its employee.

Let's take a closer look at this case.

Here's how the courts dealt with the dismissal of disabled employees in Standard Bank's case

The case of Standard Bank of South Africa v CCMA & others deals with incapacity and disability. Don't lose at the CCMA like they did, says the Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service.

Here are the facts of the case…

  • Ms Ferreira worked for Standard Bank for 17 years. She hurt her back in a car accident while on duty. As a result, she suffered from severe back pain and found it difficult to perform her functions as a mobile home loan consultant.
  • Standard Bank assigned her lighter admin work, but this work made her feel 'incompetent and useless'. So she moved into a position where she confirmed the income of clients.
  • But she found she needed a headset because it was painful to write while on the phone. Standard Bank refused to give her one. It again assigned her different tasks. These aggravated her pain and she was often off sick.
  • Standard Bank then appointed her as a home loan fulfillment officer.
  • One month later, the bank dismissed her for incapacity. The reason? They said it was because of her high rate of absenteeism and low productivity.

What was the outcome of the case?

The CCMA found in Ms Ferreira's favour. This prompted Standard Bank to take the case to the Labour Court. The Court found the bank refused to reasonably accommodate Ms Ferreira and so had discriminated against her.

What did the Court take into account when making its finding?

The Court looked at these facts:

  • She was only partially unable to work.
  • Because her injury occured while she was on duty, it was the bank's duty to accommodate her.
  • The cost of a headset and an Occupational Therapist's report would have been a minor for one of the largest banks in Africa.
  • The bank didn't show why it couldn't accommodate her frequent absence. Nor why her absence created unjustifiable hardship to it.

What did the court award the employee for her unfair dismissal?

The dismissal was automatically unfair and Standard Bank had to pay MsFerreira24 months' salary.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service explains that since Ms Ferreira claimed unfair dismissal and not an automatically unfair dismissal, she couldn't receive an increased compensation award. She would've received more if she'd made a claim of automatically unfair dismissal.

What can you learn about unfair dismissal from this case?

Is there anything you can learn from this case?

Yes.

You need to ask these four questions to check if the dismissal of a disabled employee is fair and appropriate:

  1. Is my employee able to work?
  2. To what extent is my employee able to work?
  3. Can I adapt my employee's work circumstances or duties?
  4. Do I have other suitable work?

Well there you have it. Court rulings give you an advantage because they allow you to learn from other people's mistakes. So make sure you learn from this case so you don't end up forking a 24 month's salary because you fired a disabled employee incorrectly.

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