labour appeal court

This week Ivan Istraelstam explains all of the dispute resolution bodies, and the fees and costs for an employer who is found to have unfairly dismissed an employee.

As with all disciplines, labour law has its own terminology. What does "hiding behind the corporate veil" mean? Ivan Israelstam explains how employers sometimes seek to hide the true nature of a business practice, and how the CCMA, bargaining councils, and labour courts will respond.   

Once a recruitment decision is made, the next step is to conclude an employment contract. Has employment started and does the new employee have rights from the date of signing the contract? What is the guidance of the labour courts? 

When is a dismissal justified - and what circumstances need to be taken into account before an employer decides to dismiss an employee? Various courts have confirmed that the circumstances do matter. So it is not possible to simply state X action requires dismissal. Ivan Israelstam provides examples to illustrate how an employer should consider all the circumstances before coming to a decision.  

The key document for employers to follow when taking disciplinary action, is the Code of Good Practice: Dismissal (The Code), contained in Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). This should be read in conjunction with the employer's own Disciplinary Procedure. This week Ivan Israelstam uses cases to explain the difficulties that arise should an employee request to be represented by a lawyer at the internal disciplinary enquiry. 

Employers do become emotionally involved in some of the serious disciplinary cases at the workplace. So as Ivan Israelstam points out, it is very important to have a trained person to chair disciplinary hearings. It is important to understand the requirements of Schedule 8, which requires a two step process - first to prove what happened, and then to consider all circumstances before taking the decision to dismiss. That is the requirement of considering mitigating factors.  

This week Ivan provides examples from decided cases of what would not be sufficient to justify dismissal, or make the continued employment relationship intolerable. This is compared with how the Labour Appeal Court has approached allegations of racism, or racist language as:  “an anathema to sound industrial relations and a severe and degrading attack on the dignity of the employees in question”. 

This week, Ivan Israelstam uses examples of cases from the CCMA, the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court, to explain how decisions can be overturned from one court to the other. Ivan explains why it is important for employers to have an understanding of the pattern of decisions, to understand what is clearly decided, and what is still uncertain - in order to be able to identify what is relevant to their own cases. 

The sale of a business - or part of a business - may take place when a company is in financial difficulty, and wanting to restructure to avoid going into liquidation.  The new owner may want to reduce the staff complement - but the Labour Relations Act makes any retrenchment as a result of a transfer of a going concern an unfair dismissal. Who is responsible - the old or new employer? Ivan Israelstam explains further.

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. 

At some time or other, most employers are faced with the decision on whether dishonesty by an employee warrants dismissal. This week Ivan Israelstam explains what the Code of Good Practice Dismissal requires employers to take into account. Ivan also explains the importance of mitigating factors that need to be taken into account before an employer makes the decision to dismiss.

  

Sex related acts not always sexual harassment - that is the outcome of a case Ivan Israelstam examines this week.  This case indicates how important it is to ensure that disciplinary action is taken timeously.  A delay - and allowing the employee to continue working - would indicate that the trust relationship is not broken. Therefore, dismissal may be found to be unfair.

This week Ivan Israelstam expreses the opinion that the "conflicting court decisions on going concerns mean that we don’t know if we are coming or going".  Read on to see why Ivan holds this opinion. Find our what is a transfer as a going concern, and why this definition is so important to contracting companies. 

Ivan Israelstam explains the many ways that communication can go astray between the CCMA and the employer - and the very expensive consequences of the mis-communication.  This week Ivan explains why it is essential for business owners and executives to take labour law seriously and ensure that all management and supervisory levels understand how to manage employees within the law. 

This week Ivan Israelstam uses a dismissal case that went from CCMA, to Labour Court, and finally to the Labour Appeal Court, but the dismissed employee was still re-instated - to explain the importance of handling investigations and disciplinary matters competently, and to ensure that any procedures at CCMA or courts are well prepared.  Above all to avoid emotion.  

This week Ivan Israelstam pays attention to the use of labour brokers and temporary employment service agencies (TES). There are many reasons why employers make this decision on how to fill their company needs. But are there risks to using these services, instead of employing people on the company payroll as permanent employees? Read on for further details.  

How does the dispute resolution system work in South Africa? New employers and new employees in the human resources, personnel, and industrial relations fields, as well as students will find the explanation by Ivan Israelstam this week very useful.   

This week Ivan Israelstam addresses the danger of an approach used by some employers, who have not effectively managed performance and behaviour. To remove "troublesome" employees - who should have been disciplined or performance managed - the employer goes to great lengths to manipulate positions, and to create a redeployment pool, which effectively amounts to a redundancy pool. Ivan demonstrates how the Labour Appeal Court has the power to uncover alternative agenda, and the consequences of such poor management performance. 

This week Ivan Israelstam expresses his view that the employer’s right to dismiss has been weakened. He explains how the Sidumo matter proceeded through various courts ultimately ending in a Constitutional Court decision, which provides the standard for employers to adhere to when deciding upon a dismissal sanction.

The Code of Good Practice on Dismissal (Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act) provides the guidelines for employers to follow in disciplinary proceedings. This code does not specifically require "cross-examination" but does provide that the employee must be aware of the allegations against them, to understand them, and be given a chance to state their side of the story - or defence - in response to the allegations.This week Ivan Israelstam explains the meaning of "cross-examination" and provides advice on how employers should proceed.

The South African Constitution provides employees with the right to fair labour practices. Prior to a dismissal decision an employee should be made aware of the allegations against him/her and given chance to be heard on the matter.

To avoid performance management procedures of instruction, counselling, training, and coaching some employers have utilised the "retrenchment pool" concept. Into this "pool" they place individuals they want to be rid of - for whatever arbitrary reason. However, employers using such tactics are warned that this method has every chance of backfiring. This week Ivan Israelstam explains the consequences - and type of financial penalty - of trying to circumvent good management practice.

Employers may be surprised to find that there are costs that may accrue when they fail to follow correct disciplinary procedures in dismissing employees. There may be Conflict Dispute Resolution Centre - attached to Bargaining Councils (CDR) or Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) costs. This week Ivan Israelstam explains what the potential costs are when employers fail to follow the requirements for dismissing employees for a fair reason and following a fair procedure.

Ivan Israelstam

In the mid 1990s the old labour legislation was repealed and was replaced by our current Labour Relations Act (LRA) negotiated between government, employers and trade unions. Due to the fact that parties had substantially different agendas they were often unable to agree on a number of important details of law which were therefore omitted from the LRA. Some detail as to the intention of the law is provided in the form of codes of good practice and other gaps may be filled by case law. Ivan Israelstam explains further.

Employers who hold senior positions in multi-national and national organisations may hold an arrogant belief that the CCMA Commissioner will believe their testimony against that of a junior employee. Ivan Israelstam explains why this approach could lead to the company losing the arbitration.

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