The E-Toll of the HR Highway

It is that time of the year again when Top 20 lists come out and we take stock on what has transpired.

On the HR front the year has been predominantly positive with SABPP heading up the release of industry best practice. Sadly, the year ends with the release of the Labour Relations Act, which has now been confirmed to have an effective date of 1 January.

Some may say that I am being negative however, being a small town boy, any job is important and one job lost is one too many. After years of denying business’ submission that the Act would sadly lead to job losses, the Department of Labour admitted same at the National Council of Provinces in November 2012. Despite this admission in a job scarce country, the Act has found its way into the light.

Under the LRA, A-Typical employment ie non-permanent employment has been regulated.The temporary employment service provider may

remain after three months but the Act builds in extra protections for those earning below the threshold including the extended joint and several liability as well as equal treatment unless there is a differential factor. These factors also find their way into the direct temporary employment relationship. The challenge posed by this to the HR profession is to review their fixed term contracts and part time engagements and ensure that these are in order and that there is sound rationale for their use. Further challenges would be to align yourselves with legitimate temporary employment service providers and strategise as to how you legitimately may engage them in order to retain the required level of flexibility.

Dispute resolution is not spared from the impact of the amendments.  Awards have the same effect as an order of court and there is a limitation placed on the right of access to courts in that businesses need to provide 24 months’ salary security before taking a matter on review in the event of a reinstatement award and an equivalent amount of compensation to the amount awarded in the case of compensation awards. As HR/IR we need to ensure that decisions made by our chairpersons are sound and that we take the forefront in risk management in the overall labour practices applied by our operational teams. The risk is far too high now not to ensure that you are the guardian of the disciplinary process and labour practices in the workplace.

HR would also need to ensure that their knowledge and systems around trade unions is up to speed as Section 21 provides for easier access to previously majority trade union rights under s21 on trade union official, leave and access to information. This amendment may see a union with less than 50% plus 1 representation being given majority status. It is imperative that you respect the right of unions and members to freedom of association, whilst not losing sight of the fact that they need to ensure that their businesses are sustainable.

The Act creates an E-Toll on the HR Highway and sadly the price we will pay is not just financial but job losses. However it is not the end, we in the profession need to find ways to ensure that traffic continues despite the toll and that we don’t find our labour market roads empty.

I wish you well for the challenges facing you in 2015 and hope that you have a restful holiday season with friends and family.

Grant Wilkinson, Executive at Global Business Solutions

Grant is a labour attorney and has been the CAPES and a business representative at the Department of Labour’s consultation process as well as the Parliamentary sessions on the Labour Law Amendment process