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Labour Case Law: It’s all in the interpretation

Lawyers are the ultimate knowledge workers. Quality legal advice is dependent on access to accurate and timely legal information. As such, staying informed about legislative changes, new Government policies or recent case law is a vital part of the job. Thankfully, if you want in-depth analysis and true thought leadership, you should attend a SEIFSA Industrial Relations and Legal Services seminar, where you will:

  • Save time: automatically and efficiently receive the latest information and research;
  • Keep up to date: stay informed of recent developments in your areas of interest; and
  • Better work output: your work quality will improve from having the latest information.

In South Africa with its militant workforce and volatile Industrial Relations environment, it assumes an even more important role. Your first reaction counts, and the wrong or even outdated advice can ruin relationships with workers and trade unions irreparably. The result is that trust can be broken for years to come, undermining any attempts at negotiations. Make no mistake, labour law and industrial relations are as personal as it gets. Don’t ever let the distance between your office and the shop floor mislead you.

The metals and engineering sector sits at the apex of industrial relations complexity. Your knowledge and consequent advice have an immediacy not necessarily felt in other industries. Through its many years of negotiations, SEIFSA has experienced it first-hand.

The SEIFSA team will present the most important cases and then practically dissect the consequences for industry. The team’s goal is to show you how to react when faced with similar situations. The team will demonstrate how to mitigate risk and role-play how these cases could have played out on a larger industrial relations scale.

The goal of SEIFSA’s one-day seminar will be to practically work through each case and show it as a real scenario. You will be given exercises that ask you to assume the role of the CEO, the HR Manager and, finally, the legal adviser. What are their expectations and how will you, in the role of Legal Adviser or Industrial relations Manager, respond, coordinate and communicate the response? You need to know the latest developments on:

  • Dismissals for Strike-related misconduct
  • Discrimination in employment
    • Equal pay for work of equal value
    • Defences against claims of unfair discrimination
    • Role of Independent Contractors
    • Section 197 transfers
    • Changing terms and conditions of employment
    • Liability of trade unions for the wrongful conduct of their members
  • Legislative Developments
    • National Minimum Wage Bill 31/2017
    • Labour Relations Amendment Bill 32/2017
    • Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill 30/2017

Therefore, if you are an IR and/or HR Practitioner, a Legal Practitioner, a line Manager responsible for Industrial Relations or Human Resources functions, SEIFSA’s seminar must be considered as a “can’t-miss” event.

The goal of SEIFSA’s one-day seminar will be to practically work through each case and show it as a real scenario. You will be given exercises that ask you to assume the role of the CEO, the HR Manager and, finally, the legal adviser. What are their expectations and how will you, in the role of Legal Adviser or Industrial relations Manager, respond, coordinate and communicate the response? You need to know the latest developments on:

  • Dismissals for Strike-related misconduct
  • Discrimination in employment
    • Equal pay for work of equal value
    • Defences against claims of unfair discrimination
    • Role of Independent Contractors
    • Section 197 transfers
    • Changing terms and conditions of employment
    • Liability of trade unions for the wrongful conduct of their members
  • Legislative Developments
    • National Minimum Wage Bill 31/2017
    • Labour Relations Amendment Bill 32/2017
    • Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill 30/2017

Therefore, if you are an IR and/or HR Practitioner, a Legal Practitioner, a line Manager responsible for Industrial Relations or Human Resources functions, SEIFSA’s seminar must be considered as a “can’t-miss” event.

Let’s look at an example. Take the key changes that deal with the employees of temporary employment services, employees on fixed-term contracts and part-time employees. In summary, the amendments are aimed at

  • Limiting the use of labour brokers to genuine temporary needs. For workers earning below the Basic Conditions of Employment Act earnings threshold, if the worker is not performing a “temporary service” for the client – that is work lasting less than three months – then not only is the client deemed to be the employer of the labour-broker worker, but on the whole the worker is also entitled to be treated no less favourably than an employee of the client performing the same or similar work, unless there is a justifiable reason for different treatment.
  • Employers can only employ somebody on a fixed-term contract or successive fixed-term contracts for longer than three months if the nature of the work is of a genuinely limited or defined duration, or the employer can demonstrate justifiable reasons for fixing the term of the contract.

Labour Law principles as set out in legislation are often broad, and the application of these principles is uncertain in most cases. The problem is that interpretation by courts is sometimes inconsistent.

SEIFSA’s Industrial Relations and Legal Services team, through case law and academic discussion papers, is able to unpack the practical application of legislation and its implications for your workplace.

The company-employee relationship is, like any other relationship, vulnerable to the vagaries of personal and communication style and perceptions of “the other”. The relationship also naturally creates a perception of “us” and “them”. This is why rules of engagement are absolutely essential in guiding professionals through a potential minefield. Your goal should be the long-term stability and potential growth of the business – this includes stability of the relationships between the employer and the employees.

Protecting this sometimes-fragile bond is part and parcel of SEIFSA’s core mandate.For that reason, we keep our members informed about recent developments in Labour Law. We invite you to leverage our skills and knowledge to ensure that your relationships with employees remain stable, calm, cordial and mutually beneficial.

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