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Find Lawyers in South Africa for Labour and Employment Law

Practice Area Overview

The employment relationship is regulated by five principle pieces of legislation which provide the framework for the contractual relationship between employer and employee and the general rules of engagement between employer and trade unions. Underlying those contractual relationships and rules of engagement is the concept of equity: each employee has the right to be treated fairly. Consequently the relationship and the regulation thereof is something more than a contractual relationship and the termination of the employment relationship is a challenging and often traumatic event. Relationships between employers and trade unions are no less challenging.  

Labour and employment law has become a highly specialised area of practice where lawyers advise employers, trade unions, and employees about workplace related issues. Legislation and regulations govern the whole life cycle of employment from recruitment, appointment, pay, terms and conditions, promotion, performance and discipline to termination of the employment relationship. Minimum conditions of employment are applicable in certain areas and certain industries.

The highly unionised environment is founded on freedom of association, organisational or recognition rights, and collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is often centralised at industry level. The right to strike is sacred. Industrial disputes have become a way of living and managing strike action and disciplining employees who participate in unprotected strikes or misconduct is complex and fraught legal risks.

Navigating the right to equality, the prohibition on unfair discrimination and the duty to implement affirmative action presents unique questions. This includes claims based on pay discrimination and discrimination on arbitrary grounds. The regulatory spectrum also includes skills development obligations, strict occupational health and safety regulations, and a compensation regime covering occupational injuries and diseases.  

Managing compliance and the risk of facing significant legal claims has resulted in preventative measures becoming increasingly important to employers. Even the most compliant and fair employer is unlikely to escape legal challenges. Although the statutory dispute resolution process favours a conciliatory approach and early settlement, crippling litigation still occurs.  

The world of mergers, acquisitions, and business transfers also does not escape the reach of labour and employment laws. This developing area of the law is regulated by specific provisions that provide for the automatic transfer of employees in certain circumstances.  

Last, but not least, is the area of restraints of trade or non-compete agreements, which litigants often to their surprise discover are enforceable in terms of our law.

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