Hollard employees say Dotsure merger leaves them out in the cold

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Google street view of Hollard's Parktown Campus
Photo: Google
Google street view of Hollard's Parktown Campus Photo: Google
  • Some Hollard employees are not happy about the company's merger with Dotsure.
  • They say it will leave them financially worse off as they have to commute for more than 100km to their new offices.
  • The company is offering them some travel-assistance packages, but they say it's not enough.

Some Hollard employees say the merger between the insurer and the owner of Dotsure Insurance, Badger Holdings, has left them out in the cold.

In February this year, the Competition Tribunal approved the takeover of Hollard’s direct short-term insurance by Badger, which is headquartered in George in the Western Cape.

However, in Gauteng, Hollard employees who previously worked at the insurer's Parktown Campus in Gauteng are now faced with two options. They either have to move house to be closer to their new offices or commute to Springs daily, more than 50km away from the Parktown Campus.

The companies aren't forcing anyone to relocate. But in a memo seen by Fin24, Dotsure told Hollard employees that it does not have a work-from-home policy, except under exceptional circumstances.

'We are already struggling'

Now some workers say the extra travel costs of the merger will leave them worse off financially.

The Dotsure memo stated that employees will get a "travel assistance" allowance of between R400 and R1 500 per month for the first six months after the merger, which comes into effect on 1 July.

Screenshots of queries in a staff meeting shared with Fin24 show that most employees say they will travel more than 100km a day to and from the new offices in Springs, excluding toll fees.

"We will only be assisted with that little amount that only covers the toll fees for six months. What happens after six months? We were told straight out that we will have to absorb the costs ourselves. How? We are already struggling," said one employee.

The employee said some Hollard employees have resigned because of this, and more are considering the same route.

"I know a lot of people - half of the people [that have resigned]. There was supposed to be 128 of us [moving to Springs]. Right now, there are about 74 people. We will only find [out] on the first [of July] how many people will move because some people still haven't decided," said an employee.

Hollard didn't respond directly to Fin24's question about how the companies determined the quantum of the travel assistance. It's also unclear whether most workers will get close to the maximum allowance of R1 500 or the minimum of R400.

The company also did not confirm the number of workers that have resigned since the merger was announced. The company itself has not retrenched anyone, nor is it forcing employees to relocate as the Competition Tribunal stated that those were not options.

The Tribunal said the two companies must not retrench or relocate any employee to George for two years after the merger becomes effective, unless the employee chooses that.

Hollard said it noted the issues raised by employees with concern and invited the aggrieved staff members to engage with it through platforms that the companies have created to deal with this matter.

Continued employment a major factor

It said that when the merger, which saw Hollard exchanging its existing direct personal lines business for an increased stake in Dotsure, was undertaken, continued employment of its workers was one of the major factors.

The potential of a larger Dotsure entity meant that it could adopt a more sustainable and competitive approach to serve consumers in the increasingly competitive direct insurance market. Hollard said the confidentiality undertakings prevent it and the affected employees from disclosing specific terms and conditions governing the merger and the transition plans.

"Over and above honouring the terms and conditions stipulated by the Competition Commission and the Labour Relations Act, we are committed to treating all employees with care and dignity. We will continue to engage with all concerns in this spirit," wrote Hollard in response to Fin24's questions.

There's always an option to move to Springs. But one of the employees Fin24 spoke to after receiving Hollard's responses said this was not an option for them. The employee lives in Soweto with their family and cannot afford to move.

They said they've started looking for another job, but because Covid-19 has displaced many workers, the job market has become more competitive than before.

"We'll see what comes out because we are all in the same boat; we're all looking. Now, you can imagine a lot of people are doing the same thing, looking for the same job."

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