Employees have a right to fair labour practices

AN EMPLOYMENT relationship entails two distinct primary obligations for parties involved. The employee's primary obligation is to place services at the employer's disposal, while the employer's obligation is to remunerate the employee for services rendered. However, it cannot be denied that the bargaining power between an employer and an employee is by its nature unequal.

AN EMPLOYMENT relationship entails two distinct primary obligations for parties involved. The employee's primary obligation is to place services at the employer's disposal, while the employer's obligation is to remunerate the employee for services rendered. However, it cannot be denied that the bargaining power between an employer and an employee is by its nature unequal.

In recognition of this fact, the Constitution, among other sources, affords employees the right to fair labour practices, to form and join a trade union and to take part in the activities and programmes of a trade union. These fundamental rights are contained in Section 23 of the Constitution.

The Labour Relations Act was promulgated in order to give effect to the fundamental rights contained in Section 23 of the Constitution. These rights are contained and explained in detail in the Act.

Due to the unequal nature of the relationship between employers and employees, most employees do not fully and properly give effect to these rights because they fear that they would be victimised or discriminated against by their employers.

To address this problem the LRA affords protection to employees and persons seeking employment against any discrimination or any action that might prevent or which seeks to prevent an employee from exercising his employment rights.

In this regard, Section 5 of the LRA provides that:

1. No person may discriminate against an employee for exercising any right conferred by this Act, and

2. No person may do, or threaten to do, any of the following -

(a) require an employee or a person seeking employment -

(i) Not to be a member of a trade union or workplace forum;

(ii) Not to become a member of a trade union or workplace forum; or

(iii) To give up membership of a trade union or workplace forum;

(b) Prevent an employee or a person seeking employment from exercising any right conferred by this Act or from participating in any proceedings in terms of this Act; or

(c) prejudice an employee or a person seeking employment because of past, present or anticipated -

(i) Membership of a trade union or workplace forum;

(ii) Participation in forming a trade union or federation of trade unions or establishing a workplace forum;

(iii) Participation in the lawful activities of a trade union, federation of trade unions or a workplace forum;

(iv) Failure or refusal to do something that an employer may not lawfully permit or require an employee to do;

(v) Disclosure of information that the employee is lawfully entitled or required to give to another person;

(vi) Exercise of any right conferred by this Act; or

(vii) Participation in any proceedings in terms of this Act.

l The writer is deputy chairperson of Eversheds.

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