The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited v Nombulelo Cynthia Chiloane (Case No. JA85/18)  ZALAC (5 November 2020)
Employee was given notice to attend a Disciplinary Hearing for misconduct. On the day that the employee received the notice to attend the Disciplinary Hearing, she tendered her “resignation with immediate effect”.
The employer assumed that the employee had to serve four-weeks’ notice, the employee argued that her letter of “resignation with immediate effect” ended the employment relationship completely.
The hearing continued in her absence and the employee was subsequently found guilty and a sanction of summary dismissal was imposed.
The employee approached the Labour Court on the legal point that the contract had ended on immediate resignation. The Labour Court found that once an employee hands in her resignation indicating that the resignation is with immediate effect, the employment relationship comes to an immediate end and the employer has no right to insist that the employee serves his/her notice period.
The Labour Court found the disciplinary hearing was therefore “null and void”.
On appeal to the Labour Appeal Court (LAC), the LAC stated that in the event of either party terminating their relationship, the giving of four weeks’ notice was still applicable. The LAC emphasized that employment relationships are governed by contract or statutes and in this instance, they had elected to govern the termination by contract which required a notice period. The LAC found the employee’s view that her resignation was with “immediate effect” was of no consequence because it did not comply with the contract which governed her relationship with her employer. The Employer was thus correct to read into the resignation a four-week notice period within which period it was free to proceed with the disciplinary hearing.
The decision of the Labour Court was thus set aside.