COVID-19 and my rights as employer

With the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, it is important for employers to know that their rights are still valid and enforceable in the workplace. South Africa’s working environment is highly regulated and employers often feel that they are pulling at the shortest end. However, employers must realise that they have many rights in the workplace, but also the responsibility to enforce these rights.

Employers can claim the following rights:

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Employees’ fiduciary obligation to continuously act in the employer’s best interest

The relationship between the employer and employee is based on mutual benefits and respect. With employment, the employee undertakes to continuously act in good faith and promote the employer’s business interests. Any activity that negatively impacts on the employer-employee trust relationship should be viewed in a very serious light.

Fixed standards in terms of quality and quantity

It is the employer’s right to exercise control in the workplace with regards to work performance. It is important for the employer to establish clear standards in terms of quality and quantity that employees must comply with. Employers should also continuously evaluate employees in order to identify and address any poor work performance immediately.

Implementing clear rules in the workplace

Clear rules and guidelines limit friction and misunderstandings. It also promotes productivity and a positive working environment. The majority of rules in the workplace are implemented through the employment contract, with reference to working hours, leave, obligations, etc. Each workplace is unique however, and there is often a need for specific rules to establish order and structure. These rules are implemented through policies and procedures:
  • Policies are not underwritten by labour law and the employer should draft his own rules in the workplace. These rules must be reasonable.

  • A procedure is a fixed of official way to handle or deal with a situation. Procedures are put in place to inform employees and employers about the necessary steps to be followed when a specific incident occurs.

Applying discipline in the workplace

Each workplace must have a relevant and up to date disciplinary code to ensure that there are clear rules (with applicable sanctions) in the workplace for employees to follow. When employees violate these rules, the employer has the right to act.

Restructuring due to operational requirements

Operational requirements can force employers to adjust terms of employment. The purpose of this should be to create a cost-effective environment and to ensure that the business stays competitive in the market. Under no circumstances may these changes be made unilaterally and there is a strict procedure to be followed. Employers also have the right to refuse requests from employees based on operational requirements – take note that these decisions must be applied consistently.
The employer has to manage various business risks on a daily basis. Employers should be proactive and always follow the correct procedures with regards to all labour law matters. Contact the LWO at 086 110 1828 with any labour law inquiries – remember our 24/7 legal advice helpline is FREE and UNLIMITED for all our members!



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