The employment relationship between the employer and the employee is based on trust, integrity, mutual benefits and respect. Each workplace is a unique environment and should be evaluated accordingly in terms of labour relations. People are diverse and not all employees have the same ethical values and work ethos. The employer has the responsibility to balance all these differences and create an environment that promotes the business’s profitability and sustainability.
Any activity that negatively affects the relationship of trust between the employer and the employee is very serious. Negativity in the workplace can also easily spread and affect other employees to the detriment of the business as a whole. Employers must be alert to red flags as warning signs in the workplace of a possible underlying problem in terms of labour relations. Early warning signs are usually identified when there is a change in an employee’s normal conduct and behaviour.
Red flags as clear warning signs of underlying problems in the workplace should not be left unaddressed – examples include:
- Refusal to sign an employment contract: When an employment relationship starts of by an employee refusing to sign an employment contract, it is clear that issues are imminent. This is a clear sign of differences or misunderstandings between the employee and the employer;
- Misconduct: An increase in misconduct by employees such as insolence, fighting, theft and other unacceptable conduct;
- Absenteeism: Although absence form the workplace can be due to other issues such as transport, personal finances, undisclosed medical issues or just plain misconduct, absenteeism clearly indicates an underlying problem;
- Decreased productivity: a decrease in quality and/or quantity can also indicate a lack in skills and training, or an unawareness of declaration of duties can quickly escalate to a serious concern;
- Workplace conflict: Conflict in the workplace is often ignited by emotions, favouritism or discrimination, differences of opinion, culture, religion and a variety of other factors related to the workforce’s diversity.
- Take care to appoint the right person for the job form the start. Take the time to contact previous employers and also involve other workplace managers during the interview and selection process. The labour environment in South Africa is highly regulated, especially with regards to the termination of the employment relationship.
- Implement a written employment contract. The written particulars of employment in the form of an employment contract creates clarity and certainty between the employer in managing labour relations, as a verbal agreement’s terms and conditions cannot always be proven.
- Communicate clearly and often. The lack of communication between the employer and the employee is one of the biggest problems in South Africa’s labour environment. Clear rules and guidelines in the workplace ensures that friction and misunderstanding are kept to a minimum. This in turn, promotes not only productivity but also a positive working environment. When it comes to taking disciplinary action, the focus is on progressive discipline. This aims to take reasonable steps in order to change or correct the behaviour of employees, through the systematical issuing of warnings, as well as holding consultations.
It is important that employers deal with issues in the workplace as quickly and effectively as possible. Employers should also take care to act objectively and consistently. Labour risk is a huge business risk. To ensure the sustainability and profitability of your business, labour risk needs to be managed proactively. Not following the correct procedures can lead to dire consequences with a huge financial impact.
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