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Sit Up & Take Notice!

One of the more aggravating things that employees do from time to time, is to march into the office and ‘resign with immediate effect’.   Of course, there is no such thing, and any breach of the notice provisions, is the same as any other breach of contract , enabling the aggrieved party to seek to recoup the damages they have suffered as a result of the breach.  This, traditionally has been limited by the courts to the notice period in the contract.  The legal costs of recovery of this, in all probability, would be far greater than the notice period itself, unless the employee earn mega-billions, or the notice period was extremely long.  
Whilst this has been the law, it is how the law is applied, as opposed to the legal principles around damages, which normally include all losses arising out of the contractual breach.
Well, for various reasons, which we do not need to detail here, the court in SAMRO v Mphatsoe, a recently decided Labour Court case, did not share this view.
Although, in this case, the employer did not succeed in the action, the court remarked in it’s judgment, that it did not see why the traditional approach should apply of limiting the damages should be elevated to the status of a rule, and that there was no reason why the employee who ‘resigned with immediate effect’  thus breaching the contract, should not be properly liable in law for all of the damages arising from this breach.
Such damages could include the costs of temporary labour needed as a result of the breach of the notice period, as well as other losses which follow, and which can be properly established.  It is only a question of time until some employer, either because the damages are great, or simply to teach the employee the consequences of contractual breach, has a go.
If nothing else, a firmly worded letter of demand to the ex-employee setting out the cause of action and the damages claimed, will result in several sleepless nights for the errant employee, a fact which can give the employer a degree of comfort as he slips of to the sleep of the innocent and the just.
Of course, an employee who resigns with ‘immediate effect’  is also a deserter ……..but that is an issue we will cover elsewhere on another note on this site.