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How to get your employee to pay up if he damages company property

by , 03 September 2015
We recently had an employee damage a really expensive printer in the office. He jammed a piece of plastic into it, while trying to get it to work. It cost the company more than R6 000 to get it fixed.

I'm sure you've had a situation in your company where an employee has damaged or broken company property. And I'm sure you'd love him to pay for it.

I'd like to show you how we got the employee to pay for it... And how you can too!

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as deducting the money from his salary. Here's what you have to do...

How to get your employee to pay up if he damages company property
First, make sure he caused the loss or damage while he was working. It must be his fault. For example, you can't take money from everyone who worked with the printer before it was broken. You must identify the person and hold that person accountable. 
You have to give him a chance to explain and show why you shouldn't make the deductions. If he doesn't give a satisfactory explanation, you can go ahead and deduct. 
Don't deduct the full amount at once. You can only deduct a quarter of his pay at a time. You can't deduct even a cent more than the sum of the actual loss or damage, but you can add interest where applicable.
The key is to get written consent to dock his pay! But there are situations where you don't need written consent. Let's take a look.

Make your employee pay for his mistake!
If it's not your mistake, why should your company pay for it?
Don't seem fair, does it?
And that's why most employees think the obvious thing to do is just deduct the amount Tim owes from his salary.
But it's not that easy!
In fact, if you don't deduct the amount correctly, you'll not only pay for his mistake, you'll pay for yours too – at the CCMA!
You see, as an employer there are deductions you can make and then there are deductions you can't. And it's your responsibility to follow the correct rules and procedures to make sure you get it right.
If you don't and your employee disputes this deduction, you'll land up at the CCMA. And you WILL lose!


You don't always need written consent to deduct money
You can automatically deduct amounts in the following instances:
- If you accidentally overpay him;
- If he has union fees;
- Legal deductions. Such as UIF and tax;
- A deduction authorised by an arbitration award; or 
- Court order. For example, a garnishee order for child maintenance. 
Make sure you have a clause in your employment contracts that gives you the authority to deduct money an employee owes you.
What happens if your employee leaves before working off the balance he owes you? 
If your employee leaves before paying back the full amount, you have two options. You can write the loss off or you can deduct all outstanding money from his final pay check. This is instead of issuing a summons and incurring legal costs suing him for the balance.
You must specify the exact amount of each deduction, to qualify as written consent (BCEA).
If you use the above clause it makes your employees aware they'll be financially responsible for losses they cause. You can then later agree on the numbers when the actual loss happens. If you can't agree on the amount, you can deduct what you lost. Just make sure you can prove your calculations. 
The next time one of your employees breaks company property, you won't have to suffer for his negligence. 

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