Employment relationship – have it in writing!

The employment relationship between the employer and the employee is based on mutual benefits and respect. Clear rules and guidelines ensure that friction and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum. This in turn promotes not only productivity but also a positive working environment.

Recording the employment relationship

The employment contract is the basis of the relationship between the employer and the employee. It records and confirms the terms and conditions of the employment as agreed upon. It is vital, as with any agreement, that this contract is recorded in writing. A common myth is that the employee is not a permanent employee if there is no employment contract. This is not true, as the employment relationship is effective form the moment an employee commences work, irrespective of how the relationship is recorded – via verbal agreement. The major benefit of having the employment contract in writing, is that you have proof of the agreement itself. You also have proof of the terms and conditions of employment as agreed upon.


Monitoring the employment relationship

Monitoring the employment relationship is an ongoing process with regards to duties, rules in the workplace, enforcing discipline, solving grievances and maintaining a fixed standard in terms of quality and quantity. Employers must take care to record the following in writing:

  • The employment contract
  • Declaration of duties
  • Rules – the employer must be able to prove that the employees are informed and aware of the workplace’s rules and policies.
  • Disciplinary code – employers must have an up to date disciplinary code that lists offences with the appropriate sanctions to use when rules and procedures are not followed.
  • Disciplinary action –  the CCMA mainly looks at two elements when and employee refers a dispute:
    • substantive fairness (a valid and fair reason for the sanction imposed), and
    • procedural fairness (the required legal procedure before imposing a sanction).

Refusal to sign documents

When an employee refuses to sign a document, the employer must explain the document in the presence of a witness and the witness can then sign the document as proof that it was explained to the employee. Video footage can also be used as proof.



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