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Discover how to claim losses from an employee and never feel short changed

by , 19 February 2015
One of our readers recently asked: "We had an employee who damaged 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. Can we claim the money back from him?"

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

I'd like to show you how we claimed the loss from the employee. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as deducting the money from his salary, keep readng to find out what you have to do...

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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!

Discover how to claim losses from an employee and never feel short changed...

Firstly, you need to 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. But...
Don't deduct the full amount at once. You can only deduct a quarter of the worker's 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.  
You don't always need written consent to deduct money
You can automatically deduct amounts from your employees salary if you accidentally overpay him, if he has union fees, if there are deductions required by law: UIF and tax, or the deduction has been authorised by an arbitration award or court order. For example, a garnishee order for child maintenance. 
As I mentioned above, if you can prove that he owes you for loss or theft but he refuses to give his written consent, you can still deduct the money from his pay. 
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, instead of issuing a summons and incurring legal costs suing him for the balance. Make sure you have a clause in your employment contracts that give you permission to deduct costs for losses yor employee causes. 
You must specify the exact amount of each deduction, to qualify as written consent (BCEA)
If you use a clause it makes your employees aware they'll be financially responsible for losses caused by them. You can then later agree on the numbers when the actual loss is incurred. If you can't agree on the amount, you can deduct what you lost, but you must be ready to prove how you arrived at that amount. 
The next time one of your employees breaks company property, you'll be guaranteed of not being short changed. 

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