How to play fairly
In order to protect a business from having the maximum punishment being inflicted by labour laws:
1 Ensure that every employee (yes, even the office worker who only works one day a week) has an employment contract that is signed by both the employer and employee.
2 Generally, registration with the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Compensation Commissioner and South African Revenue Services is necessary for all staff (in certain cases there may be exceptions for staff that work an insignificant number of hours in a month). Check that this is in order.
3 Establish what prescribed procedures need to be followed before dismissing staff or even changing the working conditions of any staff member. You need not employ full-time labour consultants or even
subscribe to labour law periodicals to find the correct course of action. An Internet search or even going straight to the CCMA or Department of Labour for guidance is far better than embarking upon an uninformed course of labour action, which may prove very costly if such conduct is subsequently proven to be unfair to the employee.
4 Ensure that you follow the correct procedure once it has been established. This procedure will always include providing the employee an opportunity to provide his or her version of events.
CCMA commissioners will, inevitably, be more lenient on errant employers that follow a fair procedure even if that procedure is found not to follow the exact letter of the law. Beware, however, the employer who plays unfairly and is the playground bully.