South Africa’s Labour Relations Act of 1956 was replaced soon after the transition of government in the mid 1990s because it was considered to favour employers in the view of the new government and its trade union allies. By 1995 South Africa’s new constitution had entrenched labour law rights very strongly and the labour movement had become very strong.
Employers often hire staff on the basis of a fixed-term contract, thinking that this can make life easier for the employer. This is often not the case because, when they want to end the employment relationship, the pawpaw could hit the fan.
Very few workplace issues elicit as firmly held views or fears as the topic of constructive dismissal. Whether it is a manager, fearful of doing something wrong and at risk of an employee lodging the dreadful claim of constructive dismissal, or Harvey Spectre wannabes cascading their views on the legal impact of such a claim: say "constructive dismissal" and you have everyone's attention.
Can you dismiss an employee who refuses to obey instructions? To answer this, we look at the case of Media Workers' Association of South Africa obo Hoohlo and others v SABC SOC Ltd.
South Africa’s labour legislation changes periodically and case law decisions of ten have the effect of changing the law. As management at all levels make daily decisions affecting the myriad of employee rights, all managers need to be able to take the complex, increasing and constantly changing labour laws into account when making their decisions.
Item 4(1) of the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal (the Code) attached to the Labour Relations Act (LRA) states, in effect, that the employer should conduct an investigation and allow the employee to state a case in response to disciplinary allegations as part of the requirements for rendering dismissals procedurally fair. Countless case law decisions have upheld this requirement.
Employees do not ordinarily have an automatic entitlement to a pay increase or to advancement up the corporate ladder. However, the Labour Relations Act (LRA) does allow employees who have been passed over for promotion to lodge an unfair labour practice dispute at the relevant bargaining council.
Carrying a weapon during a strike action at your work premises could potentially be a fireable offence. A recent court case, Pailpac (Pty) Ltd v De Beer N.O and Others, confirmed that employees can be dismissed for having dangerous weapons during a strike and on company property.
Even where an employment contract is silent on the employer’s expectations of the employee common law expects the employee to be loyal to the employer.
Yes, it is true that our government has lifted its Covid restrictions as a means towards promoting economic activity. While this will assist businesses to improve their sales, employers and employees need to bear some important things in mind:
The Labour Relations Act, seven other labour acts and numerous codes of good practice have all been designed to protect employees. And indeed, employees need protection from unscrupulous employers. However, the imbalance is so great that our labour laws leave employers virtually unprotected.
The law makes it essential for employers to act with great care and expertise in gathering evidence and in designing and applying their disciplinary policies. The Labour Courts are most intolerant of employers who do not follow their own disciplinary policies and who cannot justify their dismissal decisions based on the facts of the case at hand.
Employers too often misuse disciplinary warnings or avoid using them at all because they are unsure of how the law allows them to use such warnings. In labour law the main purpose of giving warnings is to remind employees of the employer’s standards of conduct and work performance and to give them a chance to improve.