Company coughs up nearly 5 years' back pay for firing employee with depression

The Labour Court has recently ruled that dismissal on the basis of mental illness or mental incapacity is automatically unfair.

This includes depression, anxiety, burnout or stress, explains labour specialist Natasha Moni.

Read: SA companies ignore staff's mental health at own peril, warns Sadag

In the case, Ockert Jansen v Legal Aid South Africa, the employee was on medication and suffering from depression.

He faced disciplinary action for work absenteeism and was dismissed for misconduct.

Read more: Why the definition of unfair labour practice is very blurry

However, the Labour Court ruled that the employer should have instituted an inquiry into incapacity rather than misconduct.

The court ordered retrospective reinstatement, meaning that the complainant will receive almost five years’ back-pay.

Employers must be careful when dealing with disciplinary issues that could be related to mental illness, Moni advises.

Also read: Dismissal isn't the default outcome of disciplinary action, a lawyer advises

The Labour Court has now acknowledged that it would be automatically unfair, and part and parcel of unfair discrimination, should you be dismissed for a mental illness or mental incapacity.

Natasha Moni, labour specialist, Director at Moni Attorneys Incorporated, Acting judge at CCMA

But for his mental illness, he would not have been dismissed.

Natasha Moni, labour specialist, Director at Moni Attorneys Incorporated, Acting judge at CCMA

Read more on the Labour Court ruling here.

The Labour Court has also allowed employers to further informalise disciplinary inquiries, Moni adds.

She explains the latest case law developments in the Labour Court and answers questions from callers.

Take a listen to the World Of Work open line:


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