A Unisa professor is taking the university to court over her demand to “work from home” while she lives in the USA.
According to a report by the Sunday Times, Professor Venitha Pillay said her disabled child needs to attend a special needs school in Washington DC. Pillay’s daughter has cerebral palsy.
However, Unisa has stated that Pillay – who oversees master’s and doctoral students – and other full-time employees must be on campus a minimum of once a week.
The university therefore suspended her salary due to “absenteeism”, stated the report.
Pillay said when she was employed by Unisa, she explained she had been working for the World Bank in Washington DC and had found a school for her daughter there.
She stated that the university was told of her personal situation, and it said it would consider the “work from home” matter.
After working for Unisa for 8 months, her application to work from home in the US was turned down.
The report stated there was then a “crisis with her daughter in Washington” and Pillay returned to the US – travelling back to South Africa “from time to time”.
This resulted in Unisa suspending her in late 2017 due to her being absent, and reversing a salary payment.
Pillay then took the matter to the labour court and her salary payment was returned. The parties also agreed that from February 2018 Pillay would work from the Unisa campus.
Her application to work from home in the US was adjourned, and was set to be heard in December.
However, Unisa has again stopped Pillay’s salary for not coming to work. This resulted in another labour court application by Pillay against Unisa, which saw the court ruling against Pillay.
Pillay said she will continue to pursue her right to work from home.
Working from home is a much-discussed topic in South Africa, and in 2017 the City of Cape Town planned to introduce flexi-hours and an option for working from home for employees to help reduce traffic jams.
More recently, the SA Fuel War initiative launched a campaign to protest petrol price hikes in South Africa by telling people to work from home.
SA Fuel War said that private motorists, especially those who commute to work on a daily basis, represent a significant chunk of fuel revenue and tax income via the fuel levy – which goes to the government.