Amendments to Employment Legislation and What Employers Can Expect

By Talia Conversano, Associate in the Employment Law department

There have been some interesting proposed amendments to existing employment legislation as well as the possible addition of new legislation.

The Labour Laws Amendment Bill is a new piece of legislation which seeks to introduce parental leave for not only the birth of a child, but also for parents who choose to adopt or commission the services of a surrogate.

The Bill removes the provision for Family Responsibility Leave for the birth of a child, which usually applies to the father or in the case of a same-sex relationship, the non-child bearing parent, and provides ten consecutive days leave for parental leave when an employee’s child is born or adopted.

An employee who is an adoptive parent of a child younger than two years or who is a commissioning parent in a surrogacy agreement, will be entitled to ten consecutive weeks leave. However, if there are two adoptive parents, one parent will be entitled to ten weeks leave and the other only ten consecutive days leave. There are no provisions dealing with how an employer can determine who is entitled to the longer form of leave as in most cases the parents will not both be working for the same employer.
While the object of the Bill is to be gender neutral, it still remains to be seen whether it will be challenged as being discriminatory on the grounds that maternity benefits for female employees are greater than those for males who elect to be the primary caregiver. It may also be seen to be discriminatory against women who are unable to bear their own children, as they are not afforded the same maternity benefits as those that are able.

However, the current public focus is on the National Minimum Wage Bill and the proposed amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

The amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act are largely to cater for the National Minimum Wage Bill which will be included in the definition of “Employment Law”. The amendments provide for fines for not paying an employee in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Bill which may be the greater of twice the value of the underpayment or twice the employee’s monthly wage, as well as providing Labour Inspectors with the power to enforce the National Minimum Wage.

It will also be possible for employees who earn below the minimum earnings threshold of R205433.30 per annum to refer disputes relating to the non-payment of wages to the CCMA. Employees earning above the threshold maintain their right to ventilate their disputes relating to the non-payment of wages through the Civil or Labour Courts.

A new Section has been added which provides that employees who work less than four hours a day must not be paid less than four hours on that day. An exemption to this Section would be employees who work less than 24 hours a month for an employer.
The CCMA has been given a wider jurisdiction relating to labour inspectors and the enforcement of compliance orders. If an employer fails to comply with a labour inspector’s written undertaking or compliance order, the Director General may apply to the CCMA instead of the Labour Court, to have the written undertaking or compliance order given the status of an arbitration award.

The intention of giving the CCMA the power to adjudicate compliance disputes is an attempt to resolve these disputes faster than if the disputes were to be referred to the labour court. It is also considered to be a more cost-effective process. It will be interesting to see whether the CCMA has the capacity to cope with what could potentially be a large number of disputes in the manner in which the amendments intend.

It is important for employers to understand and to be up to date with the dynamic development of South Africa’s employment law to avoid unnecessary legal action and potential fines.

For more information on the above contact:

Talia Conversano on 031 575 7209 or talia.conversano@wylie.co.za