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Sunday, February 1, 2004
What about the workers

A number of regulatory requirements have been imposed or elaborated on in the past number of years, and all of which concern small business owners who are also employers. These regulations are contained in the following acts:

• Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997
• Employment Equity Act, 1998
• Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993
• Protected Disclosures Act, 2000
• Skills Development Act 1998 and
• Labour Relations Act 1995 (“LRA”).

The Department of Labour’s website may be visited for more information on updates and amendments to these acts. Meanwhile, this article only deals with a number of the regulations contained in the LRA.
Amongst other aspects, this act governs the issues in relation to the dismissal and retrenchment of employees and provides codes in relation to disability, HIV, sexual harassment and dismissal. The LRA is applicable to all employers and employees with the exception of the defence force, the secret service and National Intelligence Agency.
In relation to dismissals, the LRA draws a distinction between fair and unfair practices. Examples of unfair/unjustified dismissals will be where an employee, who takes part in the activities of a union/protected strike or protest action, or for reasons such as race, age or family responsibilities, is dismissed.
Justified dismissals are grouped into three categories, namely misconduct, incapacity and operational/business reasons (retrenchments). However, where the dismissal is justified, the employer is still obliged to follow fair procedures. Those in relation to a justified dismissal are set out in the code of practice. The LRA requires that the employer must ensure that the dismissal is substantially and procedurally fair.
A number of actions are defined as dismissals, such as failure by an employer to renew a fixed term of contract of employment on the same or similar terms where the employee had a reasonable expectation that he would renew the contract. The termination of an employment contract by an employee as a result of the employer having made continued employment intolerable is also regarded as unfair dismissal. In relation to any termination of employment, the LRA allows an employee to consult the respective trade union, where applicable, for assistance. An employee may also consult with a bargaining council, where one is established in the employer’s particular industry. Otherwise the matter will have to be referred to the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), which is an independent dispute resolution body.
All employees have the right to form, become members of, take part in the activities of, and hold office, in a trade union. Furthermore, the LRA regulates the circumstances in which employees may strike or when employers may lock out workers. All employees, except certain ones performing essential services, have the right to strike. By Vinnie-Marie Roodt, Manager Tax And Legal Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For further information please call (021) 529 2147

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:17.1 1st February, 2004
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