Most people will agree that workplace affairs occur fairly regularly. This is not surprising given that the work environment is a place where people associate socially for eight hours or longer. Employees often travel or work alone together. On occasion they may even spend time or socialize together after work. The reality is that work relationships do not always remain professional. Friendships will naturally occur and on occasion, become more intimate.

At some point however, despite the two parties having been initially quite captivated with each other, the relationship may sour. It may happen that one of the party’s spouses finds out about the office frolics and becomes, quite understandably, very upset. The jilted party may seek to retaliate by claiming that she (or he) had been sexually harassed by the other party and/or begin behaving in an obsessive, embarrassing or irrational manner. This may of course result in a work environment that becomes increasingly unpleasant. Staff gossip and rumours will no doubt help to worsen the situation.

In Van Tonder v Barnard & van der Merwe (2007) 16 CCMA 6.13.1 a relationship developed between a medical practitioner employed by the respondent and one of the partners in the business.

The requirements of the Employment Equity Act impose additional responsibilities on employers in South Africa. Employers that do not comply with the provisions of this act could face fines ranging from R 500 000-00 (five hundred thousand Rand) to R 900 000-00 (nine hundred thousand Rand).

 

The GEO assists all its members that qualify for the provisions of this act by consulting with employees and unions, conducting an analysis of the business, drawing up of an employment equity plan and submitting reports to the Director General of the Department of Labour.

SACWU obo Sithole and Afrox Gas Equipment Factory (Pty) Ltd

(2006) 16 MEIBC 7.1.4

The applicant employee resigned after 17 years of service. He had apparently decided to take up a position elsewhere with better prospects.

He submitted his resignation on the 11th of March 2005 in writing, thanking the company for the time that he had spent there. On the 30th of March, he sent another letter stating that he was withdrawing his resignation. The reason for his decision was that he had not realised that he was still indebted to the company for a study bursary that they had assisted him with. The terms of the bursary required that he repay the balance of the bursary on his departure.

In a Business Day article: ‘Labour Department to Conduct Inspections’ (2009/08/11), Thobile Lamati, the Chief Inspector at the DoL (Dept of Labour) said: “It is the minister’s position that workers’ lives are sacrosanct and that employers should not sacrifice workers’ lives for profit”.

This statement was made as motivation for the Department’s intention to institute a blitzkrieg of inspections particularly amongst employers in the metal and engineering industry.

Despite the fact that employers have more important issues to worry about (such as survival in a recessive economy), employers are obligated by law to ensure that they comply with certain legislative requirements.

Strydom v Witzenberg Municipality

(2008) 17 LC 1.11.47

Can an employee be dismissed for depression? Simply put, yes. Depression is recognized as a disease and as such, if a person becomes incapacitated as a result, the employment contract may ultimately be terminated. A proper procedure must however be followed. The extent of the illness and duration needs to be determined. The employer is obliged to seek alternatives and possibly consider amending employment conditions to assist the employee. Dismissal is a last resort and only after complying with the procedures in Schedule 8 of the LRA.

 

According to a Business Day article (SA’s recession rescue plan ‘paralysed’ by ineptitude – Mthabo Le Roux - 13/07/09), around 200 000  people have been retrenched in South Africa this year so far.

There is no doubt that the international economic fallout has affected every sector of the South African economy.

The GEO is of the opinion that the figure of 200 000 employees is far lower than the actual number of people that have been retrenched. GEO officials are attending to more retrenchments this year than in the past decade.

From a Labour Law point of view, there is no doubt that litigation around current retrenchments will occupy the Labour Court for years to come.

Unlike the law dealing with unfair dismissal, retrenchment law is complex and fraught with difficulty. The reason for this is that the retrenchment of an employee is regarded as a ‘no fault dismissal’. Stated differently, it is not the employee’s fault that he was dismissed for economic or other operational reasons. With this in mind, the Labour Court scrutinizes the process and reasons behind retrenchments. Added to this, given the current high level of job losses, The Labour Courts follow a stricter approach to the process followed and reasons given by the employer.