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This year will prove to be a watershed in regard to workplace law as the Department of Labour rereleases various amendment bills.
In its 2012-2017 strategic plan, the department outlines its “strategic priorities” during this period, focusing on decent work, public employment services, the enhancement of inspection and enforcement services effectively to monitor and enforce compliance with legislation, the strengthening of social security and the strengthening of the institutional capacity of the department.
In pursuit of these goals, the Minister of Labour has focused on the promulgation of amendments to the following acts: Labour Relations (LRA); Basic Conditions of Employment (BCEA); Employment Equity (EEA); Unemployment Insurance (UIA); Occupational Health and Safety (OHSA); and Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (COIDA).
Decent employment through inclusive economic growth is deemed by the department to be central to its strategic objectives.
National public briefing sessions are under way around the country, culminating in Polokwane on May 2.
These briefing sessions relate to the recently released LRA and BCEA amendment bills. In their current format, these bills are the product of 30 meetings at Nedlac in the past year between the state, labour and employers.
It is anticipated that these bills will be enacted before the end of the year, and possibly as early as August. There can be no denying the far-reaching consequences of these amendments, which one can safely categorise as unprecedented in many respects.
For example, who would have predicted that an “unemployment at will” regime would ever see the light of day in SA law; high income earners will be excluded from the machinery of the CCMA when, for example, they seek to dispute the fairness of their dismissal.
The Labour Court will essentially be the only option available to the super earners who consider an aspect of their dismissal to have been unfair. This amendment may not withstand scrutiny on constitutional grounds.
For example, the LRA Amendment Bill makes provision for the potential for awarding organisational rights, which currently only accrue to majority unions, to minority unions in certain circumstances.
Pre-strike ballots are to be reintroduced as a prerequisite for protected strikes, “vulnerable”, “non-standard” employees are afforded enhanced protection, labour brokers are predictably more strictly regulated, and temporary employment receives much focus to eliminate employer use of temporary employment for reasons other than those temporary employment was originally conceived to address.
It’s not all bad news, however. New and small businesses are granted some light relief and flexibility in exemption from new provisions which seek to strengthen the regulation of temporary employment regimes and many aspects of labour broker usage.
New and small businesses are defined as “an employer who employs less than 10 employees” and “an employer that employs less than 50 employees and whose business has been in operation for less than two years”.
These exclusions do not apply when the “employer conducts more than one business”.
l Register for a Seta-accredited Conducting Disciplinary Hearings workshop (May 8 and 9). Visit www.tonyhealy.co.za, e-mail email@example.com, or phone 011 476 1620.