SA HR news roundup: SARS takes the hard line on work-from-home expenses, and employee wellness is on the remcom agenda

Dismissal over not taking a polygraph test heads to the Labour Court.

Despite being touted as the new way of work, gig economy workers find themselves in a precarious position when it comes to fair working conditions, according to a new survey. Meanwhile, the revenue service has flagged work-from-home tax expenses as a risk area for the current tax season and the Labour Court readies itself to decide whether dismissal for not taking a polygraph test was ‘grossly flawed’.

SARS cautions against work from home expenses
SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter has called on taxpayers to carefully consider claims for work-from-home expenses. The 2020-2021 tax filing season opened on 1 July 2021.

He said that the law remains as it was prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. The commissioner said that as of 1 July, Sars had received just over 1,500 tax returns with home office expenses, which were claimed, of which over 1,300 have been stopped for verification, while the current risk identification rate is 50 percent in this area.

Remcoms acutely aware of employee wellness
The bi-annual 21st Century surveys on salary increase trends and projections has found that survival is still top of mind for many companies, with organisations trying to navigate the new normal of ensuring deliverables are met, while considering the emotional wellbeing and safety of staff and performance management from a distance.

The survey showed that the median actual increase across staff levels (excluding CEOs) was one percent lower than in April 2020, and that pay freezes were not the norm. All of this supports the fact that employee wellness and engagement are one of the major trends facing organisations and their remuneration committees.

Projected salary increases are typically also lower than they were in April 2020, by approximately 0.5 percent at the different staff levels. General staff were hit harder by inflation as a high percentage of income is spent on consumable goods, resulting in less disposable income.

Gig economy does not always make for fair work
The third annual ratings for digital platforms in South Africa, through the Fairwork Project, shows the challenges of work in the gig economy.

Fairwork assessed 12 of the country’s largest digital labour platforms against five principles of fairness: fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation – giving each a rating out of 10.

Trade supplier app GetTOD came out tops this year with nine points, while part-time job provider M4Jam, domestic worker service SweepSouth, and freelance work provider NoSweat also scored well.

E-hailing tax services Bolt and Uber fell short on a number of key metrics, including not paying the average minimum wage.

Dismissal for not taking a polygraph test heads to the Labour Court
Three workers who were dismissed for refusing to take a polygraph test will soon be asking the Labour Court to set aside a CCMA arbitration award, claiming it was “grossly flawed”.

In 2018, Silveray Stationery Company found stock losses of about R170,000 and requested 12 employees to take polygraph tests as a “tool to assist investigations” and to “narrow or focus on a potential group or area to conduct investigations”.

Three workers who refused to do so received final written warnings and were subsequently dismissed for breaching their employment contracts and insubordination.

In 2019, the CCMA ruled that the workers’ continuous refusal was “serious, deliberate and persistent” and that their dismissals were fair.