The amended Employment Equity Amendment Act was introduced in recent months, as was the amended Basic Conditions of Employment Act. More recently, on 1 January 2015, the new Labour Relations Amendment Act came into effect.
This represents the most widespread revision of SA labour legislation in almost twenty years, and brings with it significant changes to numerous aspects of the labour law landscape, and now makes its introduction after a gestation period of about four years.
First and foremost, it must be said that many of the LRA amendments amount to general housekeeping which will have little, if any, effect on employers, trade unions and the State.
However, quite significant changes are made to key labour relations agenda items such as temporary employment, labour broker usage and practices, automatically unfair dismissals, matters of mutual interest, part-time employment, minority trade union organizational rights, picketing and the extension of Bargaining Council agreements, to name a few. Important changes have also been introduced to trade union picketing rights.
In the past, the most that a temporary employee could expect was the renewal of the temporary contract on the same or similar terms. However, the LRA amendments establish an expectation of permanent employment, if it is found that the position is in fact permanent.
The new LRA amendments also introduce a maximum period of employment of temporary employees, which may only be exceeded if the employer can show that there is justification for a longer temporary employment period on grounds of, for example, the nature of the work or assignment to be completed.
Turning to labour brokers, if it is established that the client of a employment service labour broker is jointly and severally liable in cases of alleged unfair dismissal, the employee may lodge proceedings against the labour broker, or its client, or both.
Temporary employees with more than twenty four months service will qualify for severance pay should they be retrenched.
Minority trade unions will now be entitled to certain organizational rights previously reserved for majority trade unions, unless the minority trade union resorted to industrial action to gain such rights. In short, in order to be granted such rights by Commissioner, minority trade unions will need to already have so-called sufficient representation and have otherwise substantial minority membership.
New picketing rights relate to picketing now being permissible at a place controlled by someone other than the employer (such as a shopping centre) as long as the other person has input in the picketing rules agreed.
The EE Amendment Act introduces the concept of ‘equal pay for equal work’; this compels employers to ensure that employees doing the same work receive the same pay, unless it can be shown that there are fair criteria justifying different wages.
Finally, a new Employment Services Act, amongst other things, focuses on the employment of foreign nationals.
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