earningsThe Mercury reports that labour experts have warned that businesses may not legally arbitrarily dock workers’ wages for lost productivity during Eskom’s load shedding.  

This was advised after a KwaZulu-Natal factory worker complained that his employer had engaged in the practice for several years, with 10 hours of load shedding a week equating to an almost 25% drop in wages.  Jason Whyte of Norton Rose Fulbright said workers who provided their services were entitled to wages, regardless of whether work was available in the factory.  He said employers could not unilaterally vary the terms of an employment contract, but added that:  “In certain limited circumstances, an employer might be able to contend that due to force majeure (an “act of God”) it is unable to perform its obligations under the contract of employment.  This may allow the employer to reduce remuneration for the period of time that load shedding endures.  This is, however, an exceptional defence and is highly dependent on the facts of any case.”  Alex Rocher of Cox Yeats confirmed that in the absence of an express agreement or collective agreement an employer could not lawfully deduct wages for time not worked due to load shedding.  “The common law provides that when an employee arrives at work and tenders his or her services with a view to discharge his or her obligation under the employment contract, the employer is obliged to pay the employee notwithstanding the fact that the employee is not able to work due to a power cut.”  But, some collective agreements make provision for ‘short-time’ whereby, usually, only four hours’ wages are paid to employees if employees are sent home due to load shedding.  “Some bargaining councils or forums had the foresight after 2008 when the phenomenon of load shedding was introduced to incorporate clauses in their collective agreements regulating the payment of wages during load shedding,” Rocher noted.


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