Employees should be aware of their rights and should be covered by legal assistance when such help is required.

The rights of employees are well documents in the annals of South African law, and it would stand employees in good stead to study them and not be taken by surprise by the actions of an unscrupulous employer.


General employee unfair practices are as follows:

  • Unfair dismissal, or discrimination.
  • Resources not available to undertake the necessary duties.
  • Safe work environment.
  • The agreed remuneration is paid timeously.
  • Fair labour practices.
  • To always be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Non-victimisation and non-harassment.
  • Leave benefits and other basic conditions of employment are adhered to.

Employees should also study the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which spells out what an employee’s rights are. You need to know these, but your lawyer or the CCMA will also be very aware of them.

The BCEA states that every employee has the following legal rights to:

  • Make a complaint to a trade union representative, a trade union official or a labour inspector.
  • Discuss the conditions of employment with fellow employees or employer.
  • Refuse to comply with an instruction that is contrary to the Act.
  • Refuse to agree to any terms or conditions of employment contrary to the Act.
  • Inspect any record in terms of the Act that relates to the person’s employment.
  • Every trade union representative has the right, at the employee’s request, to inspect any record kept in terms of the Act that relates to the employment of the employee.
  • Employers may not prohibit employees from discussing matters such as salary, wages, wage increases, bonuses, and so on.
  • The employer has no authority to deprive an employee of a legal entitlement bestowed upon that employee by law.

And so, it goes on. It is an extremely lengthy and thorough document well worth looking up and making notes.

Employees have far greater awareness

As far as the CCMA is concerned, its use appears to be on the rise, especially from referrals made by dismissed employees.

An interesting point here is that it appears that employees have a far greater awareness of employment law than does the employer. This is somewhat disconcerting as it is up to the employer to ensure all employees are aware of the rules and standards of behaviour that is allowed in the workplace.

While the employee may well have a case to submit to the CCMA, it is also up to the employee to comply with the disciplinary code and procedures of the workplace.

Often, there is a case of entitlement on the part of the employee which goes against the norms of workplace conditions. Taking an employer to the CCMA on such grounds would not be sensible – yet the CCMA sees many such cases.

If the employee does well have a case, the first stop should be the CCMA. If the ruling does not prove satisfactory and the employee has a bona fide case, then it can go to the Labour Court.

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