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The tolling of the freeways in Gauteng is going to happen, it seems, and it’s going to have serious implications for employers and employees.
In terms of the new e-toll system, road users will be required to pay a per-kilometre-based toll on the N1, N3, N12 and R21.
According to the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the system is expected to roll out next month.
Although it has been met with massive protest, all indications are that it will be implemented.
So employers should become aware of the implications and deal with them as early as possible to avoid a rush of enquiries or grievances from affected employees.
Our view is that the implementation of such a system will have significant implications for employers and employees alike.
The practical implications for employees include:
l Additional expenses in travelling to and from work.
l Those who use their personal vehicles for business purposes will incur additional expenses in doing so.
l Those travelling to and from work only and those travelling for work-related purposes, will approach employers for compensation for these expenses.
As a general rule, both in terms of statutory law and common law, an employer will be under no obligation to provide additional compensation unless there is an agreement, either individually such as through a contract of employment or travel policy, or a collective agreement, which makes provision for such an allowance.
Unions and employees, however, may raise the issue.
Employees can generally be classified in four categories:
l People not driving for the employer’s benefit – they drive to and from work and do no further driving in their personal vehicles for the employer’s benefit. Unless specifically agreed, the employer is under no obligation to compensate the employee for these additional expenses.
l People driving for the employer’s benefit gratuitously – they drive for business purposes without being paid to do so. Unless specifically agreed, the employer is under no obligation to compensate the employee for these additional expenses.
l People driving for the employer’s benefit at a flat rate of compensation. Unless specifically agreed, the employer is under no obligation to compensate the employee for these additional expenses.
l People driving for employer’s benefit at a per kilometre rate of compensation. The typical example here would be a salesperson.
Regard must be given to the agreement which regulates the payment. If it provides for increases due to increasing expenses, then the employer may be obliged to increase the compensation. If the employee is entitled to reimbursement for toll fees, then he will be entitled to claim for them.
The payment of additional disbursements may well have tax implications, and employers and employees should seek proper advice on this in order to structure their pay systems in the bestway.
Employers are advised to update policies dealing with travel disbursements to offer clarity on these future additional expenses.
Where employers are not obliged to effect reimbursement, they may still wish to offer employees some form of compensation in deserving cases.
Employers in certain industries may wish to consider encouraging employees to use lift clubs or getting employees to participate in a single organised transport organised by the employer.
HR managers should begin to make management aware of these implications and work on action plans in anticipation of new demands for compensation.
l Osborne Molatudi is employment law partner at Cowan-Harper Attorneys. Contact him at omolatudi@ wecan.co.za