Absenteeism – it was only one day!

In Litha Malimba v Sun International Management Limited and others, JR1594/18 (delivered 23 January 2021), the Labour Court was called to decide whether an employee’s failure to report for duty – for one day – warranted a dismissal.

15 Feb 2021 2 min read Employment Law Alert Article

At a glance

  • The Labour Court ruled on whether an employee's failure to report for duty for one day justified dismissal in the case of Litha Malimba v Sun International Management Limited.
  • The employee failed to inform management and did not report for work as required, leading to a charge of absenteeism and subsequent dismissal.
  • The court considered factors such as the employee's prior warnings, lack of accountability, and refusal to cooperate, ultimately upholding the dismissal as a reasonable response to the misconduct.

Mr Litha Malimba (Mr Malimba) was employed as a dealer. On 26 January 2018, the employee reported for work without his staff ID card. He was requested to go home to fetch his staff ID card and return to work the following day.

On 27 January 2018, the employee failed to report for work and did not inform management. The purpose of the rule was to ensure that the employer makes timeous alternative if an employee is unable to report for duty. The employee was charged with absenteeism and he was dismissed.

Unhappy with the outcome, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the CCMA challenging the fairness of his dismissal. He was not successful at the CCMA and he launched a review application at the Labour Court.

At the Labour Court, Mr Malimba argued that dismissal was not the appropriate sanction and was unreasonable considering the nature of the misconduct. In his analysis, Tlhotlhalemaje J noted the following:

  • the offence of absenteeism requires fault on the part of an employee. In this case, the employee did not report for duty on 27 January 2018 and he did not inform management;
  • the employee was on a final written warning for absenteeism;
  • the employee refused to sign a document authorising the employer to dock his salary for one day; and
  • discipline is management prerogative and it is the employer’s right to deal with the offence as it deemed fit.

Ultimately, the court considered the employee’s lack of honesty, accountability and multiple prior written warnings and dismissed his review application.

This case demonstrates that absenteeism is serious misconduct and depending on the facts of the case, may warrant a dismissal.

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