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What's the right retrenchment procedure?

Ivan Israelstam

 
Employers have regularly been reminded in this column of the factors that render dismissals for operational requirements (retrenchments) fair and unfair. Despite this, employers continue to get it wrong and, in many cases they land up paying a very heavy price. In order to win a retrenchment case at the CCMA or Labour Court, the employer must fulfil its onus of proving that the retrenchment was fair in all respects. It is the employer who has the duty of proving that there was a genuine and valid reason for retrenching staff in the first place.

Furthermore, they must prove that the decision as to which employees will be retrenched and which will keep their jobs was arrived at fairly. The retrenchment procedure as laid down in the Labour Relations Act (LRA) must be followed properly and in good faith by the employer. The employer must also prove that he/she has shared with the targeted employees (or their representatives) all documentary and other information pertinent to the retrenchment.

Despite the fact that the retrenchment procedure is clearly spelt out, employers are still being caught out at the CCMA and in the Labour Court for failing to follow procedure. For example, in the case of Numsa and others v Dorbyl Ltd and another (2004, 9 BLLR 914) 176 employees embarked on a protected strike. Thereafter, the plant at which they worked was closed down and 122 employees were retrenched.

The employees claimed that the retrenchments were unfair because (among other reasons) they had not been properly consulted by the employer before being retrenched and the options were not explained to them. The court found that the decision to retrench was taken at an executive meeting held before the employer had consulted the employees regarding the retrenchments. This rendered the consultations meaningless as the employer had already made up its mind to go ahead with the retrenchment procedure and, therefore, it went into the consultations with a foregone conclusion.

As a good-faith consultation is the core requirement of retrenchment procedure, the retrenchment was procedurally unfair. The employer was required to pay each of the 122 retrenched staff two months' remuneration in compensation. In Nkopane and others v the Independent Electoral Commission (2007, 2 BLLR 146) the employees were employed on the basis of fixed-term contracts. However, prior to the natural expiry date of the contracts, the employees were retrenched.

The Labour Court found that it was a breach of contract for the employer to terminate the contracts prior to the expiry date unless the employees had been in breach themselves. However, this had not been the case and the employer was ordered to pay all the employees out up to the date of the expiry of their contracts.

There are a number of possible reasons for the fact that employers are still not complying with dismissal law, including:

  • Employers know the law well enough but do not believe it will be applied to them;
  • They hear about the law but do not believe it;
  • The operational circumstances of the employer are so dire that the pressure distracts the employer from the legal aspects of the retrenchment;
  • There is also a mistaken belief that, if there is a good reason for retrenchment, the court will be lenient on the procedural side of the case;
  • Employers misuse so-called retrenchments to get rid of undesirable employees. As their priority is getting rid of such employees, the legal requirements are given little consideration;
  • Employers are given poor legal advice regarding retrenchment law and implementation strategy.
 

Although the courts have become stricter over time in applying retrenchment law, employers still implement retrenchments without giving thought to labour law compliance. As I have repeatedly warned employers, the courts see retrenchments as no-fault terminations. This means that the employee is losing his/her job through no fault of his/her own. In addition, the unemployment rate in South Africa is extremely high and it is very difficult for retrenchees to find new jobs.

For these reasons the courts have no hesitation in protecting the rights of retrenchees and making employers pay heavily where they deviate from the law.

  • Ivan Israelstam is chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting. He can be contacted on 011-888-7944 or 082-852-2973 or [email protected]   

 

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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