Davies Ndumiso Sibanda, Labour Matters
MANY employees who work with cash wrongly think that after the employer has recovered cash shortfall, the matter is closed.
Many organisations particularly supermarkets where there are cashiers, have policies that allow the employer to recover for cash shortfalls and this has resulted in some employees helping themselves with the employer’s money with a view of having the money deducted from their salaries at the end of the month.
The first legal problem is that even after recovering the money, the employer is within his or her right to discipline the employee and the disciplinary process can result in the dismissal of the employee.
A case in point is SHAKIEMORE MUCHENJE V BATA SHOE COMPANY – SC 39/03 where Muchenje was dismissed from employment.
Muchenje was dismissed over a cash shortfall which was recoverable from the employee in terms of his contract.
Muchenje argued that he should not be dismissed because the employer’s relief was provided for in the form of recovery.
The Supreme Court said: “He suggested that his contract of employment provided for recovery of a shortfall by his employer only. I cannot read this to mean that where a shortfall is recovered, the employer’s general right to dismiss is removed by the right to recover the shortfall.”
This case shows clearly that after a shortfall has been recovered, the employer can proceed to discipline or dismiss the employee.
Further, till shortages on their own even where there is a policy of recovery once they become substantial, they can be a dismissible case.
We find guidance in the matter TM SUPERMARKETS VS MUCHETU – SC123/04 where the Supreme Court said, “There was evidence of cash shortage, which in itself was a huge shortfall representing a substantial loss to TM. There was evidence that such a substantial loss could not just occur if a competent or skilled till operator exercised reasonable skill in the performance of his duties. This was not a case of an isolated cash shortage representing a single lapse in operating the till.
“There was evidence of three other shortfalls, which involved relatively large amounts of money incurred by Westone within thirty-one days’ work. The shortfalls which occurred in one month’s work, when taken cumulatively, show lack of skill in Westone as the cause of his unsatisfactory work performance. Each shortfall occurred when he was operating the till, suggested that the real cause thereof was the manner in which he operated the till machine. He did not exercise reasonable skill. The till machine was found to have been working properly and no-one could have tampered with it.”
This case brings up the need for all who handle cash to be very careful and ensure that there are no cash shortages and at the same time it also tells us that blaming the till for shortages is highly unlikely to help.
In conclusion, employees should strive to minimise cash shortages as they could easily cost them their jobs.
– Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: [email protected]