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Ivan Israelstam

 

Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) says that dismissal is only appropriate for those serious offences that make "a continued employment relationship intolerable". Such serious offences could include, for example, gross insubordination, endangering the safety of others, wilful damage to the employer's property, gross dishonesty and assault. While these examples are not the only potential justifications for dismissal, even these gross offences will not automatically give the employer the right to dismiss.

This is because, in addition to looking at the seriousness of the offence itself, the person imposing the sanction is obliged to consider:

  • Mitigating circumstances such as the employee's length of service, previous disciplinary record, personal circumstances and others.
  • The nature of the job - for example, while sleeping on the job might be most serious for a security guard it may not merit dismissal for a back-room clerk.
  • Other circumstances attached to the case. For example, if the security guard fell asleep because he had to work a double shift without a break, this could render dismissal too harsh a penalty.


In the case of Humphries and Jewel (Pty) Ltd v Fedcraw and others (CLL Vol. 15 No. 10, May 2006) the Labour Appeal Court found that "The relationship of trust, mutual confidence and respect which underlies the employment relationship" are at issue.  "Unless there are facts that show that the employment relationship was not detrimentally affected by the employee's misconduct, it would be unreasonable to compel either the employer or the employee to continue the relationship."

However, the concept of "intolerability" is not an objective one. What an employer might find to be intolerable might seem to be tolerable to a judge who is removed from the situation. This is possibly why a number of judges and arbitrators have refused to interfere with the dismissal sanction even when they have found it to be somewhat harsh.

They have let the dismissal stand because, albeit harsh, it is still within the bounds of reasonableness. The parties will therefore, in order to sway the arbitrator, need to argue around the issue as to whether dismissal was necessary to protect the employer from having to continue a relationship with the employee.

If the employee can show that the relationship could have continued quite satisfactorily the arbitrator might find that the dismissal was unnecessary. However, if the employer can show serious damage to the relationship caused by the misconduct then the dismissal would probably be seen as fair.

In the case of Numsa obo Khumari v Harvey Roofing Products (Pty) Ltd (CLL Vol. 15 No. 10 May 2006) the employee had requested permission to borrow a tap to repair his geyser at home. Without receiving a response to the request the employee took the tap and was dismissed. The arbitrator found that the employee had only borrowed the tap and that this did not justify the allegation that continued employment had been rendered intolerable.

The dismissal was therefore found to be unfair. Another type of justification for dismissal is when the conduct goes against the basic sensibilities of a society. In the case of Ceppwawu obo Evans v Poly Oak ( 2003, 12 BALR 1324) the employee was dismissed for making a racist comment during an altercation.

He was charged with using offensive language and with using inappropriate language. He claimed that he had done so in jest and had not intended to hurt the other person. The employer claimed that the employee had breached its code of conduct which was designed to improve relations in the workplace..

Despite the fact that the employee had apologised to the complainant for his remark, the arbitrator upheld the dismissal. The arbitrator noted that the Labour Appeal Court (in Crown Chickens (Pty) Ltd v Kapp and others 2002, 11 LAC 6,12,3) had described racism in the workplace as "a plague and a cancer that must be rooted out".

The court had found that such behaviour was "an anathema to sound industrial relations and a severe and degrading attack on the dignity of the employees in question". The court had also said that "courts should deal with racism and racial slurs in a manner that gives expression to the legitimate feelings of outrage experienced by reasonable people in a society against racism".

Largely because of South Africa's history, the offence of racism in the workplace cannot be tolerated. However, the employer needs to prove that the employee did perpetrate the offence and that the act itself was serious enough to merit dismissal. Also, when the offending employee argues mitigating circumstances, the employer must give them consideration.

 

  • Ivan Israelstam is chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting. He can be contacted at 011 888 7944 or [email protected]  
  • Our appreciation TO Ivan and The Star newspaper for permission to publish this article.

 

What does POPI compliance mean?

By Jan du Toit

 

Latest developments – Registration of Information Officers:

 

On 17 May 2021 the Information Regulator’s long awaited online portal went live for the registration of Information and Deputy Information Officers.

 

The Information Officer of a Responsible Party is the person at the head of your company (CEO or MD) or any person acting in such capacity, or specifically appointed by the MD or CEO to be the Information Officer. Registration must be completed before the end for June 2021.

 

The address for the portal is  https://justice.gov.za/inforeg/portal.html   

 

The following information is required to successfully register: 

  • Company name.

  • Company registration number.

  • Company type.

  • Company physical and postal addresses.

  • Company telephone and fax numbers.

  • Information Officer gender, nationality, full name and surname, ID or passport number.

  • Deputy Information Officers same details as per above.

 

POPIA Compliance – what must be done?

With a little more than a month left before POPI becomes fully effective, many employers may find themselves out of time to become fully compliant to amongst other considerations, the 8 processing conditions prescribed in the Protection of Personal Information Act.

 

To be considered compliant the following must be considered and applied in the business of a Responsible Party before 1 July 2021. 

  1. POPI training / awareness sessions for the CEO / MD, managers and others tasked with the company’s POPI compliance project. Have a look on our website for the next POPIA training dates.

  2. Compliance audit to be conducted company-wide per department / division to determine the current processing practices within the organization and to establish what needs to be done to be compliant.

  3. Correction of contraventions as identified, and to introduce reasonable technical and organizational measures to prevent the loss or unauthorized access of Personal Information.

  4. Introduction of Data Subject rights and consent in the business through policies and consent clauses / paragraphs / contracts.

  5. The introduction of a PAIA manual (Promotion of Access to Information Act) that incorporates data subject rights and participation in terms of POPIA. This manual must be published on one of the company’s websites. It is also important to note that the current exemption granted by the Minister of Justice for some business to not have such a manual in place currently, expires at the end of June 2021.

  6. General staff POPI policy and legislation awareness training.

  7. Registration of the company’s Information Officer (the CEO, MD or any person acting in such position).

  8. Follow-up assessment on compliance measures and adherence thereto.

 

It is important to note that no institution, not even the Information Regulator, can “accredit” any Responsible Party in South Africa to be compliant in terms of legislation. Compliance (or otherwise) will only be determined should an investigation be launched by the Information Regulator following a complaint. Should such an investigation confirm a lack of compliance, consequences such an administrative fine not exceeding R10m may follow (which one may luckily pay off in instalments). Further to this those whose rights are infringed upon by a Responsible Party not adhering to the requirements of POPIA, may also institute civil proceedings. Such  proceedings may result in compensation being awarded for loss, as well as aggravated damages determined at the discretion of the court.

 

In terms of section 19 of the Act, the Responsible Party (business owner / employer) is required to introduce reasonable organizational and technical measures to secure the integrity and confidentiality of Personal Information. The organizational measures referred  to above includes inter alia both internal and external policies to introduce the principle of protection of personal information in the workplace, as well as the rights of data subjects.

 

To allow you more time to focus on your business, the author of this article compiled a bundle of detailed policies for your business, ready to use. This includes all relevant forms to be used and a template document with draft consent clauses / paragraphs / rules  to be incorporated into service and employment contracts, job applications, credit and other applications forms, WhatsApp and Facebook groups / pages, and Independent Contractor agreements.

 

Also included is an Operator Agreement as required in terms of section 21 of the Act and a consent letter for existing clients / service providers, to agree to the continued processing of their Personal Information beyond June 2021.

 

The policies bundle includes: 

  • Privacy notice template to be published on your website.

  • Personal information protection policy.

  • Personal information retention policy.

  • Data breach policy.

  • Data breach register - form.

  • Data breach report - form.

  • Data security policy.

  • Data subject access request policy and procedures.

  • Data subject access request forms.

  • Processing agreement with third parties as Operators - contract.

  • Data subject participation - draft consent paragraphs / clauses to be incorporated into service and employment contracts, job applications, credit and other applications forms, WhatsApp and Facebook groups / pages and Independent Contractor agreements

  • Guidelines on the appointment of deputy information officers, inclusive of appointment letter.

 

For only R3750 you can now order you set of POPI policies, ready to use. Contact Jan du Toit for further assistance at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courses and Workshops

 

                   

The OHS Act and the Responsibilities of Management

30 September 2021 (08:30 – 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Employment Equity Committee Training

30 September 2021 (09:00 - 16:00) (Fully Booked)

Interactive Online Course

27 October 2021 (09:00 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Managing Day to Day Issues/ Problem Employees Full day workshop

01 October 2021 (09:00 - 16:00) (Fully Booked)

Interactive Online Course

28 October 2021 (09:00 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Course

01 October 2021 (08:30 - 16:00) (Fully Booked)

Interactive Online Course

15 October 2021 (08:30 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Basic Labour Relations

07 October 2021 (09:00 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

AARTO and the Impact on Your Business

08 October 2021 (09:00 - 12:00)

Interactive Online Course

POPIA: Protection of Personal Information Act

15 October 2021 (09:00 - 12:00)

Interactive Online Course

Workshop Chairing Disciplinary Hearings

21 & 22 October 2021 (09:00 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Strategic Human Resources Management (HRM) and - Business Partnering

27, 28 & 29 October 2021 (08:30 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Health and Safety Representative and Committee Training Course

28 October 2021 (08:30 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

Managing Poor Performance/ Incapacity

29 October 2021 (09:00 - 12:00)

Interactive Online Course

Management and Leadership Skills

10, 11 & 12 November 2021 (08:30 - 16:00)

Interactive Online Course

 

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