Damage At Work: Who Pays?

Bona|June 2020

Damage At Work: Who Pays?
What happens when you damage company property or property that belongs to your employer? Are you liable for the costs?
Gugulethu Mhlungu

Some of us have accidentally broken or damaged something that belongs to our employers. We’ve then panicked as we wondered if this is what will cost us our jobs. For me, it was spilling tea on a newsroom keyboard when I was a new broadcaster at a campus radio station that I worked at while at university. I reported it to the station manager, convinced I would be fired. Fortunately, I wasn’t and the keyboard was replaced. It turns out I got away without paying or being fired because I was a volunteer, which meant that I didn’t receive a salary. They also took into consideration that it was a genuine accident. But, if I had been employed, things could have been different. This is because according to section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, an employer may make deductions from an employee’s salary if the deduction is to reimburse an employer for loss or damage, but only if it occurred in the course of employment and was due to the fault of the employee. So, say you spill tea on the keyboard, and the company is clear about what is expected of staff regarding equipment and general safety, then your employer could potentially claim the damage from you. The Act further states that this can only be done if the employer has followed a fair procedure and has given the employee a reasonable opportunity to show why the deductions should not be made. Once this has been established, the Act states that the total amount of the debt may not exceed the actual amount of the loss or damage (so you should request to see proof of the cost of the damage or loss), and the total deductions from the employee’s salary cannot exceed one quarter or 25% of the employee’s remuneration.



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June 2020