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With remote and hybrid working becoming the norm, communicating with your employer isn’t as simple as only checking your mail. Many employers, especially in smaller companies that have less formal structures, use WhatsApp to get hold of their employees. But can a boss fire you over the phone using WhatsApp? Scorpion looks at this issue.
Under the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, WhatsApp is legally seen as a form of communication, and is acknowledged as a legitimate method to conclude binding agreements. However, certain communications, including a notice of termination, must follow a specific procedure.
By law, the employer must follow a specific procedure when terminating your employment. You must be charged, informed of the pending disciplinary proceedings, given an opportunity to respond, and have the right to appeal if you are not satisfied with the outcome. The same applies to retrenchments, where you must be notified, participate in consultations and, if possible, be offered alternative employment before you are dismissed. The outcome of the above procedures must also be in writing and in a manner and form that you can understand.
From the above, it is clear that a simple WhatsApp message saying "You are fired" is not good enough. If an employer terminates your services by phone or WhatsApp without following the above procedure, the employer's action would automatically amount to an unfair dismissal or termination, and you could take the matter to the CCMA.
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* This is only basic legal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 24 February 2023
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