South Africa is a beautifully multi-coloured, multi-cultural, multi-lingual country, comprising of people hailing from all walks of life. We certainly are a Rainbow Nation in every sense. It’s one thing to acknowledge and celebrate our eclectic melting pot. But in some cases that’s not enough. Where appropriate, and particularly in situations where justice demands it, other people’s cultural differences require more than just lip-service. One such example is in the employment relationship.
I’m going to hold a disciplinary hearing to hopefully dismiss a staff member. She is demanding that I provide a Xhosa interpreter for her during the hearing. Is this really necessary? Sure, her English isn’t great but she can understand it.
Yes, it is necessary. Your employee has a right to an interpreter during the disciplinary enquiry. If you fail to provide one this may be grounds for her to challenge her dismissal (assuming there’s sufficient evidence to dismiss her) on the basis of procedural unfairness.
South Africans over the last few years have seen, heard and witnessed some pretty awful stuff. The hate-fueled vitriol spewing forth from some people has indeed been mind-boggling. Sadly, it has become evident that there remain an unfortunate number of racists in South Africa – across the colour spectrum. Not that any of this is news to any of us. Between our media and our social media, racists are being named-and-shamed with regular monotony. But racists should beware – it’s not just their good name that’s on the line. Even if the racist act isn’t deemed offensive enough to earn a jail sentence, their careers could well be on the line.
I’ve just been sent a screenshot of a comment that one of my employees made on Facebook. This comment is just horrible and offensive and clearly racist. It is completely the opposite of what my company stands for. Can I do anything about it? Like, dismiss her (preferably)? I don’t have any social media policy, or any other policy for that matter. It’s one of those things I mean to do but never get around to. What worries me is that anyone who goes onto this person’s profile will be able to see that my company employs her. I just don’t need that kind of media attention right now.
Why do your employees work for you? Be honest. Is it your boundless generosity? The awesome working environment? The character-building challenge of the projects? The invaluable experience? The office manager’s sparkling personality? Donuts on a Friday? The free coffee? All of the above? Let us not sugar-coat the truth. The real reason why employees work is for that all-important pay-cheque they get at the end of each month. And in a handful of cases, there are some employees who wouldn’t turn their noses up at the opportunity to tweak their take-home if they thought they could get away with it. Such an action may not be the wisest though, because dismissal may swiftly follow.
I’m reasonably certain that one of my employees has been stealing from me, but I haven’t been able to catch her red-handed. I was thinking of simply firing her and sucking up the payment order from the CCMA. I’ve heard she can’t claim more than 12 months salary. I’d rather pay that than risk more shrinkage. The stock she’s been stealing is expensive.
Over the course of your life you are bound to enter into more agreements than you’d probably care to think about. These agreements may be printed or electronic, express or tacit, written or verbal. When entering into an agreement, how often do you ask, “How will this end?” Probably not often. Yet it’s an important consideration. The best time to consider the end of an agreement is not at its end, but actually at its beginning. And the best way to agree on a contract’s termination conditions is in writing.
The antics of the unpopular president in a certain country across the Atlantic has ushered in much commentary about his Reality TV Show, The Apprentice. Where his signature line, “You’re Fired!” has no doubt tempted more than a few frustrated employers, who would dearly love to employ the same tactics. But the few that do will generally find themselves on the losing end of the resultant court action.
During your personal and professional life you are bound to enter into numerous legal agreements. But an often-overlooked question when you enter into an agreement is: when and how can you get out of the agreement? This generally depends on what was agreed in the terms and conditions of the contract.
Fixed-term: an agreement will end when the contract says it will end. If the agreement was only intended to last for a few months and expressly states that it will end on a pre-determined date, then the agreement will end on that date. Some agreements provide for a renewal. This renewal can be automatic, in which case you would need to notify the other party if you would rather the agreement terminates (and not renew). Or the renewal can be at the option of one or the other party, in which event you would have to notify the other party if you don’t want the agreement to terminate (and do want it to renew).
How effective is a verbal agreement? Is it binding? A lot of businessmen and women enter into verbal contracts without being entirely sure whether they’re valid, or how effective the contract is.
In general, South African law recognises verbal agreements. There are some exceptions to this. For example, a sale of property needs to be in writing, as does an ante-nuptial agreement. But unless there’s a statutory provision that says otherwise, oral agreements are, in theory, just as binding as written ones. In theory. The problem is that verbal agreements come with a lot of, well, problems.