An employer is often faced with a situation where an ex-employee shows up at the workplace to come and collect his/her “Blue Card”, a terminology used in relation to an UI-19 form. Your HR department, would have already notified the Department of Labour that you have stopped making any further contributions for this specific citizen, due to a long period of absence without leave or notification. The reason for termination would have appeared as “desertion”.

After the former employee has paid a visit to the Department of Labour, expecting to start collecting a sum of money each month, the official at the Department would then inform the deserter that due to the fact that he/she deserted, he/she will not be entitled to collect any UIF. Shortly thereafter you are served with a notice from the CCMA[i] to come and explain your “unlawful dismissal” of the applicant.

To avoid a ruling that you have to take the applicant back (as your version will be that you never dismissed the applicant), or to feel pressurised to make a payment to the applicant just to get rid of the problem at hand, you have to treat the misconduct of desertion the same way you would handle a misconduct like gross dishonesty or fighting in the workplace.

However, this is easier said as done. The employee who committed an alleged misconduct of dishonesty, may still be in the workplace. You just have to follow your company’s disciplinary procedure, calling SEESA to do the hearing, and inform the offender of the outcome.

Although the South African Postal Services is not currently the most reliable way of service, you still have to inform the employee by registered mail to return to work to face a disciplinary hearing for serious misconduct.[ii] According to an amendment of the CCMA Rules, service may now also be done by way of an email. (Rule 6 (1) (e). It is very seldom that an employee will respond, but should he/she respond, the same procedure as in any other disciplinary hearing will follow. The employee must be given the opportunity to state his/her case. More often the deserter will not arrive, but you still have to do a hearing in absentia (after confirming that the notice was uplifted) and send the outcome of dismissal to the same address as the original notice was sent to.

To conclude, it is not an employee who “dismiss” himself/herself, but you as employer who have to accept the repudiation of the employment contract and terminate the employment relationship. Should you not follow a desertion procedure, and be prepared with all your documentation as defense, the employee will still be in your employment.

[i] Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration

[ii] SABC v CCMA & Others[2002] 8 BLLR 693 (LAC) –[15]