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Employment Contracts

Employers do complete employment contracts before the person commences work, but does that make the person an employee? What are the implications is the employer decides to terminate the contract even before the person has commenced work? This week Ivan Israestam deals with these interesting labour law questions. 

Where the job itself is permanent it is dangerous to employ staff on anything but a permanent contract. This is firstly because the Labour Relations Act provides for fixed-term employees to have a reasonable expectation of renewal of their contracts at the expiry date. Secondly, case law has gradually narrowed those circumstances under which an employment agreement can legitimately be accepted as a limited duration contract.

Employers who use consecutive fixed-term contracts for an employee, and then don't issue one for whatever reason - need to understand that the CCMA Commissioners will regard that employee as being permanent. This is just one of the examples that Ivan Israelstam quotes this week to explain why employers should not misuse fixed-term contracts. Using a fixed-term contract for probationary purposes is also not correct. Where the position is permanent; probation should be covered by a probationary clause in a permanent contract.

Traditional definitions state that a person only gains the status of "employee' upon commencement of physical work, however Jonathan Goldberg uses a recent lawsuit to emphasise the importance of developing concise and legal employment contracts.

The terms of employment should be detailed in an employment contract. This must at least meet the floor of rights set out in the Basic Conditions of Employment Equity Act. Templates are available for both temporary and permanent employment contracts. When the employment is for a defined period of time it is refered to as a fixed-term contract.

Accsys, a national people management specialist, points out that in a skills shortage people who job-hop take advantage of training and precious human resources.

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