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Thread: Is an employer legally allowed to force his employees to purchase their own tools for work

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    Exclamation Is an employer legally allowed to force his employees to purchase their own tools for work

    Good Morning All,

    I've just started working for a manufacturing company and the following situation has arisen.

    Apparently it is common practice here for the employees to sign a acknowledgement of debt when the company purchases tools for them to do their jobs.

    My understanding of this is, the value of the tools should be processed as a Tool Allowance and processed via the year end tax return, as this has an effect on their tax.

    My question is can the company do force them to take a loan to do their jobs?

    In addition, I've just been told that their terms of employment state that they MUST have their own tools, and would only be taken on if they brought them with them.

    Given, the company allows them to take the tools home over the weekend, but this is more a security arrangement than a true benefit to them.

    if it is allowed, can the guys claim the money back through their tax return?

    Please this is very important as I need to be able to give my guys an idea of their rights.

    Thank you in advance, any information or advice is greatly appreciated

    Sincere regards

    Jillian

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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    My personal opinion based on years of experience is that staff HAVE to where possible own their own tools. The reason being that tools are damaged, sold, thrown away and simply not cared for if the staff have no financial responsibility towards the tools. On site hand tools are the biggest problem because a lot of it ends up at pawn shops. Staff steal anything that isn't bolted down and besides that they also steal each others tools. I allowed one staff member to take tools home as he needed and he ended up having more of my tools at his house than at my factory.

    My wife worked in ESKOM's tech department where they fixed multi meters. The technicians fried expensive Fluke multimeters on a daily basis because they would forget to change the socket when measuring current. (You don't forget when it is R5K out of your own pocket)

    THEY MUST PAY FOR THEIR TOOLS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THOSE TOOLS.
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    Thanks for your input, it's appreciated Adrianh, I do agree with you to a degree, what I need to know if it's legal or fair labour practice,

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    Diamond Member adrianh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jilli13 View Post
    Thanks for your input, it's appreciated Adrianh, I do agree with you to a degree, what I need to know if it's legal or fair labour practice,
    The best people to answer you are Anthony Stern, Vanash Naick and Greig Whitton. The three of them have properly educated legal backrounds. Greig Whitton is our labor law fundi
    How easily someone is offended is directly proportional to how stupid they are.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    One needs to separate the Labour Law issues from the Tax issues here.

    There is nothing in labour legislation that precludes the employment contract requiring that the employee is responsible for providing their own tools, and in many industries and trades this is standard practice. As an example, in the electrical contracting industry this is settled in Clause 45 of the main collective agreement.

    On the tax front - in years gone by an artisan could claim a deductible Tools Allowance of up to R2000 per annum without proving actual spend. I'm not sure it's deductible anymore... Perhaps one of our tax fundis can advise.
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    Thanks so much Dave i really appreciate the input

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    Silver Member Greig Whitton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jilli13 View Post
    My question is can the company do force them to take a loan to do their jobs?
    I think the real issue here is whether the company: (a) forces the employees to take out loans, or (b) enforces employment contracts that require the employees to have their own tools. The two are related, but there is an important distinction.

    For example, what happens if an employee does not have their own tools and refuses to take out a loan? Disciplining (or dismissing) them for not taking out a loan might be deemed an unfair labour practice since it makes debt a condition of employment (it could also create complications in terms of the National Credit Act - e.g. if the loan that the employees are forced to take out constitutes reckless lending). However, disciplining (or dismissing) them for not having their own tools is less open to dispute.

    Put differently, the company should emphasise the ends (i.e. employees having their own tools) rather than the (possible) means to those ends (i.e. taking out a loan).

    As an aside, insisting that employees purchase their tools from pre-designated suppliers could fall foul of the amended Basic Conditions of Employment Act (section 33(A) prohibits employers from requiring "an employee to purchase any goods, products or services from the employer or from any business or person nominated by the employer" unless the employee receives a financial benefit and the price of the goods is fair).

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    Diamond Member Justloadit's Avatar
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    There is also a standard in tools which only some suppliers can deliver.
    There is a difference between a minimum requirement Fluke and a a cheapie purchased at Pick & Pay for R100.00
    There is a difference in a hardened tip screw driver and a cheapie made in China one at the 10th of the price. They do not quite perform the same job. The cheapie damages the screw heads, which then creates other problems later on, where the head is so damaged that it can no longer be removed with a screw driver. The same applies to allen keys, and spanners and side cutters, and ........

    I remember a case when I was an apprentice, and the journeyman had some cheap spanners, and while loosening a bolt, and pushing the ring spanner away from his body while loosening, the ring split, and he smashed his fist against the side of a Caterpillar engine, damaging his fingers in the process. It took him a couple of weeks to recover from this injury. So one has to be careful about jumping to conclusions about tools being too expensive, and that only one supplier is recommended.

    So to avoid the purchase of rubbish tools, they are told to purchase from a particular supplier who has the reputation of proving tools that have the required quality.
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    Thank you so much Greig, this helps alot, as the latter is exactly whats happening.

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    Thank you Justloadit, I totally understand where you are coming from. The situation with our guys is they aren't given the opportunity to make an informed decision on whether the supplier they are purchasing from has the tools they need, at the standard they need, at a fair price.

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