Labour Mat­ters

Good em­ployer-em­ployee re­la­tions are cru­cial to a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. Any prob­lems in this re­gard should be ad­dressed im­me­di­ately, or pro­duc­tion may suf­fer.

Farmer's Weekly (South Africa) - - Contents - BY AI­DAN ACKERMANN For all labour-re­lated is­sues, phone the LWO Em­ploy­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion on 0861 101 828. Email the LWO at farm­er­[email protected]­ton.co.za. Sub­ject line: Labour mat­ters. FW

The em­ploy­ment re­la­tion­ship be­tween the em­ployer and the em­ployee is based on trust, in­tegrity, mu­tual ben­e­fits and re­spect. Each work­place is a unique en­vi­ron­ment and should be eval­u­ated ac­cord­ingly in terms of labour re­la­tions. Peo­ple are di­verse, and not all em­ploy­ees have the same eth­i­cal val­ues and work ethos. The em­ployer has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to bal­ance all these dif­fer­ences and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that pro­motes the profitabil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of the busi­ness.

Any ac­tiv­ity that neg­a­tively af­fects the re­la­tion­ship of trust be­tween the em­ployer and the em­ployee is se­ri­ous. Neg­a­tiv­ity in the work­place can eas­ily spread and af­fect other em­ploy­ees, to the detri­ment of the busi­ness as a whole. Em­ploy­ers should be alert to the red flags that warn of pos­si­ble un­der­ly­ing prob­lems in labour re­la­tions. Early red flags are usu­ally iden­ti­fied by a change in an em­ployee’s nor­mal con­duct and be­hav­iour.

Ex­am­ples in­clude:

• Re­fusal to sign an em­ploy­ment con­tract

When an em­ploy­ment re­la­tion­ship starts off with an em­ployee re­fus­ing to sign the con­tract, it is clear that prob­lems are im­mi­nent. This is a clear sign of dif­fer­ences or a mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween em­ployee and em­ployer.

• Mis­con­duct

An in­crease in mis­con­duct by an em­ployee, such as in­so­lence, fight­ing, theft or other un­ac­cept­able con­duct.

• Ab­sen­teeism

Ab­sence from the work­place can be due to trans­port prob­lems, per­sonal fi­nance is­sues, undis­closed med­i­cal con­di­tions, or plain mis­con­duct. What­ever the rea­son, ab­sen­teeism more of­ten than not in­di­cates an un­der­ly­ing prob­lem.

• De­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity

A de­crease in qual­ity and/or quan­tity can quickly es­ca­late to a se­ri­ous con­cern, but can also in­di­cate a lack in skills and train­ing.

• Work­place con­flict

Con­flict in the work­place is of­ten ig­nited by emo­tions, favouritism or dis­crim­i­na­tion, dif­fer­ences in opin­ion, cul­ture, re­li­gion or a va­ri­ety of other fac­tors re­lated to di­ver­sity in the work­force.

BE PROAC­TIVE

• Take care to ap­point the right per­son from the start. Take the time to con­tact pre­vi­ous em­ploy­ers and in­volve other work­place man­agers dur­ing the in­ter­view and se­lec­tion process. The labour en­vi­ron­ment in South Africa is highly reg­u­lated with re­gard to the ter­mi­na­tion of the em­ploy­ment re­la­tion­ship. • Im­ple­ment a writ­ten em­ploy­ment con­tract. The writ­ten par­tic­u­lars of em­ploy­ment in the form of an em­ploy­ment con­tract cre­ates clar­ity and cer­tainty be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee and di­min­ishes the risk of dis­putes aris­ing from these terms and con­di­tions.

An em­ploy­ment con­tract is the em­ployer’s most pow­er­ful tool for man­ag­ing labour re­la­tions. The term and con­di­tions of a ver­bal agree­ment can­not al­ways be proven.

NEG­A­TIV­ITY CAN EAS­ILY SPREAD AND AF­FECT OTHER EM­PLOY­EES

• Com­mu­ni­cate clearly and of­ten. Lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween em­ployer and em­ployee is one of the great­est prob­lems in South Africa’s labour en­vi­ron­ment. Clear rules and guide­lines in the work­place en­sure that fric­tion and mis­un­der­stand­ings are kept to a min­i­mum, which in turn pro­motes pro­duc­tiv­ity and a pos­i­tive work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

• If dis­ci­plinary ac­tion is re­quired, fo­cus on pro­gres­sive dis­ci­pline. This should in­volve tak­ing rea­son­able steps to change or cor­rect the be­hav­iour of an em­ployee through sys­tem­at­i­cally is­su­ing warn­ings and hold­ing con­sul­ta­tions.

DON’T DE­LAY!

It is im­por­tant to deal with is­sues in the work­place as quickly and ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble, while tak­ing care to act ob­jec­tively and con­sis­tently. Labour risk is a ma­jor busi­ness risk. To en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity and profitabil­ity of your busi­ness, you need to man­age this risk proac­tively, fol­low­ing the cor­rect pro­ce­dures. Fail­ure to do so can lead to a se­vere fi­nan­cial set­back.

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