When is an employer allowed to make deductions from an employee’s salary?
Section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, No 75 of 1997, governs deductions from an employee’s salary by the employer. This section provides as follows:
(1) An employer may not make any deduction from an employee’s remuneration unless –
- subject to subsection (2), the employee in writing agrees to the deduction in respect of a debt specified in the agreement; or
- the deduction is required or permitted in terms of a law, collective agreement, court order or arbitration award.
(2) A deduction in terms of subsection (1)(a) may be made to reimburse an employer for loss or damage only if –
(a) the loss or damage occurred in the course of employment and was due to the fault of the employee;
(b) the employer has followed a fair procedure and has given the employee a reasonable opportunity to show why the deductions should not be made;
(c) the total amount of the debt does not exceed the actual amount of the loss or damage; and
(d) the total deductions from the employee’s remuneration in terms of this subsection do not exceed one-quarter of the employee’s remuneration in money.
(3) A deduction in terms of subsection (1)(a) in respect of any goods purchased by the employee must specify the nature and quantity of the goods.
(4) An employer who deducts an amount from an employee’s remuneration in terms of subsection (1) for payment to another person must pay the amount to the person in accordance with the time period and other requirements specified in the agreement, law, court order or arbitration award.
(5) An employer may not require or permit an employee to –
(a) repay any remuneration except for overpayments previously made by the employer resulting from an error in calculating the employee’s remuneration; or
(b) acknowledge receipt of an amount greater than the remuneration actually received.
As was stated in the case of Cenge & others v MEC, Department of Health, Eastern Cape & another  JOL 28269 (LC), an employer may make a deduction from an employee’s salary only if this has been agreed by the employee and the employer, or if there is an order to make a deduction in terms of a law. Consequently, such a deduction may be made only in terms of section 34(1)(a) or (b) of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This section should be read very carefully before any deduction is made.
Author: Daniel Grove