Till shortages can be costly
THE problem of till shortages is as old as the tills themselves and many workers have lost their jobs through till shortages and many employers have lost money in the same way.
Till shortages are generally a simple thing to manage as there is a very thin line between shortage and theft. A number of workers have been imprisoned for what they termed till shortages while employers call it theft. Success in dismissal or conviction depends on how the matter has been argued.
Till operators are trained and generally skilled people on handling till related transactions, while errors can occur due to the till operator’s failure to adhere to strict procedures or lack of concentration. There should be no shortage at the end of the shift if all the procedures are followed to the letter.
There are various reasons why employees have till shortages such as employee getting broke, nipping some cash from the till to cover an emergency and hoping the employer will either not see the shortage or is prepared for a deduction on their wages if that is policy although such a policy is a bad policy as it encourages employees to dip their fingers in the till.
There are also cases of employees who are sloppy in doing their work resulting in shortages as was the case in the matter TM Supermarkets vs Muchetu SC123/04 where Muchetu was dismissed for unsatisfactory work performance due to lack of skill and the Supreme Court said: “There was evidence of the cash shortage, which in itself was a huge shortfall representing a substantial loss to TM.
“There was evidence that such a substantial loss could not just occur if a competent or skilled till operator exercised reasonable skills in the performance of his duties. This was not a case of an isolated cash shortage representing a single lapse in operating the till.
“There was evidence of three other shortfalls, which involved relatively large amounts of money incurred by Westone within thirty-one days’ work.
‘‘The shortfalls which occurred in one month’s work, when taken cumulatively, show lack of skill in Westone as the cause of his unsatisfactory work performance. Each shortfall occurred when he was operating the till, suggesting that the real cause thereof was the manner in which he operated the till machine. He did not exercise reasonable skill. The till machine was found to have been working properly and no one could have tampered with it”.
Muchetu’s dismissal was confirmed by the Supreme Court clearly showing that till shortages can be dismissible.
Not all dismissal cases on till shortages will be confirmed by the courts as each case will be dealt with on its merits and the charge raised by the employer, for example common charges like theft, fraud or dishonesty, which are commonly used in till shortage cases might not be capable to be proved before a court resulting in a case being lost and the employer feeling unfairly done.
In most cases, till shortage cases are dealt with by NEC councillors who are labour politicians not technical experts and as such they are bound to do political decisions rather than legal decision leaving the employers no choice but to approach superior courts in search of justice. There are, however, cases where employers have to be reasonable when it comes to till shortages through checking the accuracy of the till, evaluating the currency exchange losses and others as these could cause genuine shortages.
There are also cases of problem employees who short-change customers in order to remain with residual cash, others tamper with the till machine itself, others connive with customers to commit fraud, others who have no respect for their password and others who do not observe change over procedures.
There are also others with perpetual shortages and some with cash overages. All these are a problem to the employer and need to be supervised tightly as they indicate that something is wrong.
Best practices require that till operators be trained and all cash handling procedures be followed and all shortages be paid before the next shift and if its habitual or the shortage is substantial, there could be recovery and discipline at some time. The misleading view is that discipline and recovery creates double job but it’s wrong as there will be no fine on the employee, it is merely a recovery.
In conclusion, till operators need to be very careful when doing their job as they can easily be dismissed from their jobs and could also find themselves facing criminal charges related to theft of money.