Till short­ages can be costly

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business - Labour Mat­ters Davies Ndu­miso Sibanda

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.

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