The past year has been tough. People are struggling. Organisations are battling. And tensions are high. In July 2021 this boiling pot of frustration, stress and anxiety exploded, and South Africa faced extensive damage as looters swept across the country. For many, it was a time of immense sadness as they watched the economy burn, but for those who took part in the looting there were serious repercussions to their careers and futures because, according to Nicol Myburgh, Head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, a person can be fired if they are caught doing anything that adversely impacts on their employer.
“Whether it’s looting or any other disruptive behaviour that could be considered illegal, this behaviour can cost a person their job,” he adds. “If your company sees footage of you looting or engaging in a criminal activity, they have every right to dismiss you. In their eyes, you’re a criminal and this is not what they want in an employee.”
Companies that can prove a person has engaged in this type of behaviour can lay a charge for disrupting workplace harmony or taking part in criminality, and dismiss them for bringing the company name into disrepute. It’s an immediate firing offence unless you can prove that you are innocent of the charges – you do have the right to defend yourself.
“Employees do have the right to prove their innocence, of course,” says Myburgh, “and companies do need to consider the situation based on individual circumstances, as one size does not fit all. It’s difficult to justify something as violent as looting, but there could be extenuating circumstances that need be taken into consideration.”
Ultimately, criminal behaviour fundamentally harms the relationship between employer and employee and will result in a loss of trust and engagement. The best course of action for employers is to follow due process to ensure that every box is ticked and every viewpoint respected, and for employees to avoid disruptive or potentially criminal situations.