There are regulations and rules that protect both employer and employee when it comes to costs, tools and behaviours, but these are being tested in entirely new ways with the 2020 pandemic.
It’s a perfectly legitimate question for any employee to ask for financial support when they’re working from home, using their internet and electricity to do their jobs. It’s equally legitimate for companies to query the extent of these costs at a time when budgets and economies are tight.
According to Sandra Maritz, Legislation Consultant at CRS Technologies, employers are obliged to provide employees with the tools they need to perform their duties, but what the employer ends up paying for will differ from company to company.
“The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) requires an employer to provide an employee with the tools they need and this can include internet, data, stationary and the like, where applicable,” says Maritz. “The employer may require that the employee then provide proof of the data capacity on their devices and the proof of payment for the data if they are going to reimburse it. If data isn’t exclusively used for the business, for example, the costs should be calculated and shared.”
The employer isn’t required to provide staff with a subsidy for coffee, tea, cleaning materials, or telephones, however, expenses such as rent or bond interest, or premise repairs may be claimed from SARS (South African Revenue Service) as a tax deduction. The latter expects the employee to meet rigorous qualifying conditions, however, this is not a guaranteed payment either. While SARS does make provision for home office expenses, this is only allowed under certain conditions – the employee must spend more than 50% of their working hours working from home and must have done so for a minimum period of six months in a tax year. They also need to have an area of the home exclusively used for a home office – not the dining room or lounge – and it must be fitted with the relevant tools.
“I think it’s safe to say that a company may be willing to pay for the total cost of the data or internet connection, and they may even be willing to pay an allowance for coffee or tea or cleaning materials, but working out the percentages on these would be difficult,” says Maritz. “It’s very unlikely that they’ll pay for a percentage of the rent or house bond or electricity. That said, these payments will vary from company to company.”
Some companies may be willing to provide their people with extra Rands to cover some of the expenses of working from home, some may do the bare minimum. Employers are not required to do more than what’s defined by the BCEA, and some may not be able to due to financial constraints, but ultimately it will depend on the company, the employee and their unique remote working situation.
For more information, go to www.crs.co.za