Answer to a question from a reader

Can my employer maintain a 15% pay cut because we are all working from home?

The short answer

Yes, because the BCEA is still in force despite the pandemic. You could discuss it with your employers.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

Our company has said that because we are all working from home and have reduced travel expenses the 15% reduction in income will still be effective. My loss of income is over R3,000 but my fuel costs used to amount to only about half of that. TERS is no longer available. What are my rights? Is my employer being unfair for using Covid-19 as an excuse to short-pay staff?

The long answer

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) is clear that pay cuts can only be implemented with the written agreement of the employee after consultation with the employee and the BCEA is still in force despite the pandemic. I am assuming that the 15% pay cut was agreed to by the employees in the first place in order to avoid being retrenched.

If an employee does not agree to the pay cut, the employer has the right to dismiss the employee in terms of operational requirements, as long as it is fair, both procedurally and substantively. The “substantively fair” would refer to the reasons for the dismissal, which would likely be the economic hit the business has taken. The “procedurally fair” would require consultation with the employer before any dismissal or retrenchment takes place. The employee has the right to be heard before any decision is taken.

You could inform your employer that your travel costs are far less than the 15% pay cut and ask for a consultation about this, given that the employer has given travel costs as the reason for continuing to cut salaries by 15%. However, in all likelihood, the employer has probably opted to continue the 15% pay cut in any case for operational reasons. If this is so, you may not be successful in getting it reduced but it may be worthwhile initiating a frank discussion with your employer about it.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Feb. 24, 2021, 9:30 a.m.

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