Category Archives: Labour Law

Understanding the functions of the CCMA

I have a dispute which has been referred to the CCMA. How does the process work?

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (“CCMA”) is a state-funded institution which acts as the centrepiece of the statutory dispute resolution system in the employment sphere. The CCMA, however, operates independently from the state.

A dispute is referred to the CCMA within 30 days of the date when the dispute arose. When a dispute is referred to the CCMA, the first step in the process is that the Commissioner (the objective party presiding over the matter), who will act as a conciliator, assists the parties to reach a mutually agreed upon outcome. The conciliator cannot make any binding determinations during this process. Therefore, there is no obligation on the parties to accept the suggestions of the conciliator. What is also important to note is that the proceedings are confidential and conducted on a “without prejudice” basis, therefore, whatever is said during the said proceedings cannot be used against either party later in the process. Conciliation is not defined in the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (“LRA”), however, in practice, the Commissioners tend to make use of mediation, conducting a fact-finding exercise, subsequently making a recommendation to the parties, which is regarded as an advisory arbitration award.

After conciliation has failed, the Commissioner will issue a certificate stating that the dispute remains unresolved after conciliation proceedings have been conducted (certificate of outcome). The referring party will then have the option to refer the matter to arbitration by completing an LRA Form 7.13 and serving it on all the relevant parties, including the CCMA, within 90 days after the date on which the certificate of outcome was issued. The director of the CCMA may direct that the parties conduct a pre-arbitration conference. The purpose of the said conference is so that the parties can simplify the matter and clearly define what the dispute is.

Arbitration is essentially a hearing based on the merits of the dispute. The arbitrator will give all the parties an opportunity to prove and argue their case. After the arbitrator has heard the parties’ cases, the arbitrator must make a finding, which any reasonable decision-maker could come to based on the available evidence. Reasons for the arbitrator’s decision may be provided. The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding on the parties, subject to a review application in the Labour Court. The arbitrator may also make an order as to costs in accordance with the CCMA rules.

It should also be noted that in 2002, amendments to the LRA were introduced, which also provide for what is now known as “con-arb”. What this entails is that the Commissioner will have to commence arbitration immediately after conciliation was found to be unsuccessful. However, a party to the proceedings may object to con-arb, whereafter the procedure as discussed above will then follow in the alternative.

When a dispute is referred to the CCMA, the first step in the process is that the Commissioner will attempt to settle the matter by way of conciliation which might include mediation, conducting a fact-finding exercise, subsequently making a recommendation to the parties, which is regarded as an advisory arbitration award. When the dispute remains unresolved, the matter will then be finalised on arbitration.

Sources:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

What are the limitations in respect of the deductions on my salary?

A client poses a question to their attorney: My employment contract makes provision for deductions from my salary and now my employer wants to deduct money. What are the limitations in respect of deductions that can be made?

As a general point of departure, deductions can only be done once the employee has given written consent to such deductions. However, the employer is also entitled to deduct money when there is a legal obligation to do so, for example, in terms of a collective agreement, legislation, a court order or arbitration award. Deductions of employee’s salaries are regulated by section 34 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 75 of 1997 (“BCEA”).

A typical scenario would be that the employment contract will contain a clause which provides that “the employer has the right to deduct from your remuneration any amounts due by you to the employer”. This amount can include, inter alia, any expenses the company has incurred on behalf of the employee; unauthorised expenses; expenses relating to the employee’s negligence, etc.

The deductions which employers can legally make includes tax deductions, contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), union membership fees, medical aid, pension or provident fund contributions, any agreements with the employee to pay back debts, deductions in terms of garnishee orders, etc.

Employers acquire written consent for any other form of deductions. If the employment contract does not make provision for a deduction clause, the employer is then required to draft an additional agreement or make an amendment to the employment contract to make provision for such deduction. However, the employee needs to freely and voluntarily sign the said agreement or amendment.

What is significant to note in this regard is that before this deduction may be made, the employer has to comply with the following requirements: the loss or damages caused by the employee must have happened during the course of their employment; the employer must follow a fair procedure and the employee must be given a reasonable opportunity to show why the deduction should not be made; and the total amount of the deduction should not exceed the actual amount of the loss or damages. Therefore, in respect of this last point, it is important that the employer provides actual proof of the loss or damages in order to quantify the amount.

Furthermore, in a scenario where your employment contract contains a clause similar to the aforementioned example, employers tend to feel that these types of clauses give them unrestricted discretion to deduct monies. However, it must be borne in mind that section 34(2)(d) of the BCEA further restricts the amount which the employer may deduct to 25% (one-quarter) of the employee’s salary. Therefore, the employer is not allowed to subtract the full amount of damages/loss suffered from one deduction.

In conclusion, when signing an employment agreement, take note of whether there is a deduction clause contained in the employment agreement. Employers may want to make deductions during the employment, or alternatively once the employment relationship has ended. If your employment contract contains such a clause, it is important to be aware that these deductions can only happen in specific instances, if they are not governed by statutory law, a court order or any other written agreement.

Sources:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Does South Africa have a public retirement insurance scheme?

My husband’s employer made provision for an occupational retirement vehicle, but my employer refuses to do so. Is there any possible recourse for me in this situation?

There is currently no public retirement insurance scheme in South Africa. This is quite a predicament for most South Africans, as the majority of persons employed in the informal economy would have to rely on an old age grant (which is currently R1, 690.00 and will increase with R10.00 on the 1st of October 2018) rather than occupational retirement. This leaves one with the alternative options of either a private retirement fund or a provident fund.

Some employees are lucky enough to be given the choice between a pension or a provident fund, when they are employed. However, there is no statutory obligation on an employer to provide such a choice to their employee. In the case of a provident fund, the contributions of members are not allowed as tax deductions and, when the member reaches the retirement age, the whole benefit will be paid out in a lump sum. In contrast, with a pension fund, the member gets one third of the total benefit in a cash lump sum and the other two-thirds is paid out in the form of a pension over the rest of the member’s life. The contributions to a pension fund are deductible for tax, which offers the member some tax benefits.

Independent contractors, the self-employed, and other persons who do not qualify to join occupational retirement funds, are left with no other option but to turn to private retirement annuities. The high-income employees also tend to invest their monies in this option to secure a comfortable retirement.

The private retirement scheme option has now taken up the responsibility of a social insurance scheme.

In his budget speech on the 21st of February 2018, the Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, declared that the old age grant would increase by the 1st of October 2018. This is the last option for those whose retirement plans have failed, or the only option for most informal economy employees or low-income employees.

With the lack of a public retirement insurance scheme, employees who are not fortunate enough to be given the option of an occupational retirement vehicle are left with no other alternative but to turn to a private insurance scheme. This decision is however also dependant on a “practicable” salary. There is currently no statutory obligation on employers to provide for an occupational retirement scheme.

Sources:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Am I still protected without an employment contract

This article looks at the continued relevancy of the employment contract in legal practice today. In 2014, the legislator amended section 186(1)(a) of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995 (LRA), which deals with unfair dismissals, by removing the words “contract of” within the definition, leaving only the word “employment”. This gives the idea that the legislator accepts that the employment relationship goes beyond just the employment contract.

On being offered employment, not everyone tends to ask for an employment contract first, yet the employment contract is the first thing everyone turns to when the employment relationship turns sour. It was accepted that the contract of employment is the cornerstone of the employment relationship. It links the employer and the employee in an employment relationship.

The initial idea was that the contract of employment regulates all aspects of the employment relationship. However, in practice this is not the reality. The employment relationship tends to go beyond just the contract of employment. This is because of statutory intervention, collective contracts, customs, and practices as well as common law implied terms which are often read into the contract. In terms of the section 186(1)(a) of the LRA, the old definition of dismissal was defined as the termination of the employment contract with or without notice. To accommodate the abovementioned factors, the legislator amended the section, expanding the definition of a dismissal to entail more than just the termination of the contract of employment.

This begs the question: do you need to sign an employment contract to be protected by labour legislation in South Africa?

The Labour Relations Amendment Act, 6 of 2014 (LRAA) changed the definition of dismissal in terms of section 186(1)(a) of the LRA. This means that the test for a dismissal will now hinge on whether employment or the employment relationship is terminated. This change from the contract of employment to just employment and/or employment relationship is also noticeable in section 186(1)(e) and (f).

So, what is meant by employment relationship? The contract of employment contains most of the terms and expected duties of both the employer and employee but it seldom happens that it covers the full spectrum of the employment relationship. Some obligations and rights are derived from a variety of sources, including the common law, collective bargaining, statutes, custom and practices, and in some instances, oral contracts between the employer and the employee. Other factors which may be taken into account, such as the employee’s obedience, care, economic dependency between the parties, fidelity, and the employer’s duty of care towards the employee, are not often referred to in the contract of employment. Initially, when employees entered into the contract, these rights and obligations may not have seemed as important but may have later turned out to be the core of a dispute. Therefore, there was a need for the concept to go beyond that of just the contract of employment, as it needed to cover the full scope of the practical realities of the workplace.

The world of work has changed over the years and employers always try to bypass labour legislation, which means that working arrangements may go beyond the employment contract and the protection provided for in labour legislation should also adapt. In Denel (Pty) Ltd v Gerber 2005 9 BLLR 849 (LAC) the court held: “In this regard it is important to bear in mind that a contract between any two persons may represent form and not substance or may not reflect the realities of a relationship…”

In State Information Technology Agency (SITA) (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & others 2008 7 BLLR 611 (LAC) the Labour Appeal Court also used the “reality test” to determine an employment relationship. In WL Ochse Webb & Pretorius (Pty) Ltd v Vermeulen 1997 18 ILJ (SA) 361 (LAC) the court highlighted that neither the employer nor employee benefit from the employment contract when it is “cast in stone”.

The legislator has now shifted the focus to the abstract relationship between the employer and employee, rather than just focusing on the contract between them. This amendment changes the entire idea we had about the employment relationship, even expanding the protection offered by labour legislation.

Reference List:

  • AC Basson, MA Christinason, A Dekker, C Garbers, PAK Le Roux, C Mischke & EML Strydom Essential Labour  Law 5 ed (2009).
  • A van Niekerk, MA Christianson, M McGregor & BPS Van Eck Law@Work 3 ed (2015).
  • A Rycroft & B Jordaan A Guide to South African Labour Law 2 ed (1992).
  • JAM Coyle-Shapiro, LM Shore, MS Taylor & LE Tetrick The Employment Relationship: Examining Psychlogical and Contextual Perspectives (2004).
  • Denel (Pty) Ltd v Gerber 2005 9 BLLR 849 (LAC).
  • State Information Technology Agency (SITA) (Pty) Ltd v CCMA & others 2008 7 BLLR 611 (LAC).
  • WL Ochse Webb & Pretorius (Pty) Ltd v Vermeulen 1997 18 ILJ (SA) 361 (LAC).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Can I bring my attorney with to an internal disciplinary hearing?

According to item 4 of the Code of Good Practice (“the code”), the definition of dismissal contained in Schedule 8 of the Labour Relations Act (“LRA”) states that, when an employee is charged with misconduct, “[t]he employee should be allowed… the assistance of a trade union representative or fellow employee”. However, what happens in the instance when you do not belong to a trade union, or alternatively, a fellow employee is unwilling to assist you?

An employee does not automatically have the right to a legal representative during a disciplinary hearing held at their workplace. However, the employee may bring a formal application prior to the hearing for the presiding officer to consider allowing an external representative to assist the employee at the disciplinary hearing. When exercising such discretion, the presiding officer should take certain factors into account, and the decision in respect of such an application is final, although the employee can still refer a dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness.

These are the factors to be considered:

  • The company policy;
  • The serious nature and complexity of the matter (whether it is in respect of a point of law or the merits of the matter);
  • The potential severity of the consequences of an adverse finding;
  • The potential adverse effects on both parties, if legal representation is allowed in comparison to when it is not allowed.

However, what happens when the employer blatantly refuses the application, or the company policy prohibits the use of an external legal representative during a disciplinary hearing?

In the case of MEC: Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism: Northern Province vs Schoon Godwilly Mahumani, the Supreme Court of Appeal held that even when the employer’s disciplinary policy prohibits the use of an external representative, it may be allowed in certain circumstances. The court held that the employer’s policy must be viewed as a guideline, which may be departed from under appropriate circumstances. Therefore, ultimately leaving it to the presiding officers to decide.

In Molope v Mbha and Others, the Labour Court held that even though the dismissal of an employee who was charged with the unauthorised use of funds was substantively fair, the dismissal was procedurally unfair. The employee, prior to the disciplinary hearing, requested a postponement of the said hearing, in order to obtain an external representative as a fellow employee who had agreed to assist the accused employee decided to no longer assist shorty before the hearing. The employer however refused the postponement.

The decision of the presiding officer on such application is final. However, should the employee wish to appeal against this decision, the employee still has the option of referring the dispute to the CCMA or Bargaining Council for procedural unfairness upon the completion of the disciplinary process.

Therefore, should employers not disclose the option to use an external representative, via their policies or the notice of disciplinary hearing, it does not preclude employees from seeking the assistance of such representative. In the light of the above, it must still be kept in mind that it is not illegal for an employer to have a policy prohibiting assistance from external representatives. However, should the employee wish to make use of external legal representation, the request must be duly considered based on the aforementioned factors, as opposed to a mere outright denial of the request.

Sources:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Are fathers entitled to paternal leave?

Fathers could spend up to two weeks with their newborn babies, while adoptive parents and parents-to-be via surrogacy, could get up to 10 weeks of leave. This is due to the latest Labour Laws Amendment Bill 2017 (“amendment bill”), which was passed by the National Assembly in November 2017.

The current labour legislation provides that fathers who want to stay home with their newborn babies have to take family responsibility leave, which is limited to three days per annual cycle, or they must take their own annual leave for this purpose. They are only entitled to family responsibility leave once they have been employed for four months and work for at least four days a week. The current law also makes no provision for paternity leave for adoption parents or fathers-to-be via surrogacy. A mother is entitled to unpaid maternity leave of up to four months and she may also claim from UIF for 17-weeks during this period.

The position regarding paternal leave has, however, drastically changed since the end of last year. On 28 November 2017, the National Assembly passed the Labour Laws Amendment Bill. The amendment bill regulates the rights of fathers in taking paternal leave when their child is born. In terms of the amendment bill, fathers will be entitled to 10 days paternal leave on the birth of a child. In addition, the amendment bill provides for 10 weeks adoption leave for one parent when adopting a child under the age of two and ten weeks “commissioning parent leave” when an employee’s child is born by means of a surrogacy arrangement. The amendment bill also increases unemployment insurance benefits from 238 days to 365 days and increases maternity benefits to 66% of the earnings of the employee at the date of the application for unemployment insurance benefits.

Five things you need to know about the amendment bill:

  1. Fathers’ paternity leave could be up to two weeks

An employee who is a parent and not entitled to maternity leave, will now be entitled to 10 consecutive working days parental leave when that employee’s child is born. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) still provides that mothers are entitled to take maternity leave for up to four months.

  1. A father must have his name on the child’s birth certificate to qualify

Fathers must have their names on the newborn child’s birth certificate in order to apply for paternal leave. The purpose for this is to prevent dishonesty and ensure that the amendment bill cannot be used and abused.

  1. Adoptive parents and parents via surrogacy could get up to 10 weeks of parental leave

An employee who is an adoptive parent of a child less than two years old, is entitled to adoption leave of ten weeks consecutively. In the case of two adoptive parents, one of the employees is entitled to adoption leave and the other to parental leave. The same provision applies for parents-to-be via surrogacy.

  1. Family responsibility leave falls away

The father of a newborn may take three days family responsibility leave in terms of the BCEA –– but under the amendment bill, this no longer applies.

  1. The amendment bill might come into effect by June 2018

The amendment bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces and if passed, will be submitted to the president for assent. This new amendment bill will bring South Africa in line with other countries, many of which offer between one to four weeks’ paternity leave.

Reference List:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Minimum wage increase

The Department of Labour released a media statement notifying trade unions about the wage increase. Once it becomes enacted as a law, no employee may be paid below the minimum wage, and trade unions are there to ensure that this law is upheld by the employer.

South Africa’s labour market is largely characterised by high levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty. As a means of reducing these and building towards achieving the broader policy objectives of the country, social partners have identified minimum wage as benefiting all workers in this regard.

Schedule 2 of the proposed National Minimum Wage Act sets out the minimum wage for workers with learnership agreement. The national minimum wages for other workers are as follows:

  • R20 per hour to be implemented and enforced from 1 May 2018
  • R18 per hour for farm and forestry workers
  • R15 per hour for domestic workers
  • R11 per hour for workers on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

What is the CCMA?

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration CCMA is a dispute settlement body. Basically, if someone believes that their dismissal was unfair, the CCMA with help settle the issue with their employer. The CCMA does not belong to any political party or business and functions completely independently. The CCMA also offers advice and training for various different subjects.

The CCMA handles disputes regarding the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and Employment Equity Act. This includes:

  1. Trade union activities at the workplace;
  2. Dismissals;
  3. Unfair labour practices; and
  4. Discrimination based on prohibited grounds.

An unfair labour practice means any unfair treatment of an employee by an employer at the workplace. This also extends to job applicants.

The following are examples of unfair labour practices:

  1. Unfair suspension of a worker;
  2. Refusal to reinstate a worker if it was agreed; and
  3. Unfair discrimination.

Every situation and dispute would be different. The CCMA can help you only if your dismissal was unfair. You may not have received proper notice or a fair hearing, for example. However, if the dismissal was due to your own misconduct and your received affair hearing, then the CCMA cannot help you. If you always came in to work late, for example, and your employer dismissed you only after a fair hearing.

How to refer a dispute

These are the steps to follow for disputes, according to the CCMA:

Step 1: If you have a labour problem, it is very important that you take steps immediately. In the case of an unfair dismissal dispute, you have only 30 days from the date on which the dispute arose to open a case, if the case is an unfair labour practice, you have only 90 days and, with discrimination cases, you have six months.

Step 2: If you have decided to lodge a dispute, you need to complete a CCMA case referral form (also known as a LRA Form 7.11.). These forms are available from the CCMA offices, Department of Labour and the CCMA website.

Step 3: Once you have completed the form, you need to ensure that a copy is delivered to the other party and you must be able to prove that a copy was sent. Acceptable methods include faxing a copy (keep the fax transmission slip), sending it by registered mail (keep the postal receipt), send it by courier (keep proof) or deliver in person (ask the person receiving it to sign for it).

Step 4: You do not have to bring the referral form to the CCMA in person. You may also fax the form or post it. Make sure that a copy of the proof that the form had been served on the other party is also enclosed.

Step 5: The CCMA will inform both parties as to the date, time and venue of the first hearing.

Step 6: Usually the first meeting is called conciliation. Only the parties, trade union or employers’ organisation representatives (if a party to the dispute is a member) and the CCMA commissioner will attend. The purpose of the hearing is to reach an agreement acceptable to both parties. Legal representation is not allowed.

Step 7: If no agreement is reached, the commissioner will issue a certificate to that effect. Depending on the nature of the dispute, the case may be referred to the CCMA for arbitration or the Labour Court as the next step.

Step 8: In order to have an arbitration hearing, you have to complete a request for arbitration form, (also known as LRA Form 7.13.). A copy must be served on the other party (same as in step 3). Arbitration should be applied for within three months from the date on which the commissioner issued the certificate.

Step 9: Arbitration is a more formal process and evidence, including witnesses and documents, may be necessary to prove your case. Parties may cross-examine each other. Legal representation may be allowed. The commissioner will make a final and binding decision, called an arbitration award, within 14 days.

Step 10: If a party does not comply with the arbitration award, it may be made an order of the Labour Court.

References:

  • Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.
  • Ccma.org.za. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. Referring a Dispute. [online] Available at: http://www.ccma.org.za/Display.asp?L1=32&L2=9/ [Accessed 07/06/2016].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Does your medical certificate justify your sick leave?

This article deals with medical certificates and whether or not an employee is justified in taking the day off for an “illness”.

Angela informed her employer on Monday morning that she would be staying at home as she felt very sick and was unable to do her work in her condition. Angela only decided on Wednesday that she would go to the doctor because she knew she would be returning to work on Thursday, and therefore needed a medical certificate from the doctor so that her work would not deduct the money from her salary. However, Angela had a surprise waiting for her.

What should a medical certificate contain?

In terms of Rule 15(1) of the Ethical and Professional Rules of the Medical and Dental Professions Board of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, a practitioner will only grant a certificate of illness if the certificate contains the following information:

  • the name, address and qualification of the practitioner;
  • the name of the patient;
  • the employment number of the patient (if applicable);
  • the date and time of the examination;
  • whether the certificate is being issued as a result of personal observations by the practitioner during an examination, or as the result of information received from the patient and which is based on acceptable medical grounds;
  • a description of the illness, disorder or malady in layman’s terminology, with the informed consent of the patient, provided that if the patient is not prepared to give such consent, the medical practitioner or dentist shall merely specify that, in his or her opinion based on an examination of the patient, the patient is unfit to work;
  • whether the patient is totally indisposed for duty or whether the patient is able to perform less strenuous duties in the work situation;
  • the exact period of recommended sick leave;
  • the date of issuing of the certificate of illness; and
  • a clear indication of the identity of the practitioner who issued the certificate which shall be personally and originally signed by him or her next to his or her initials and surname in printed or block letters.

If pre-printed stationery is used, a practitioner will delete words which are irrelevant. A practitioner will issue a brief factual report to a patient where such a patient requires information concerning himself/herself.

The above is largely self-explanatory. Sub rule (e) refers to those occasions where, for example, the employee has been off sick on Monday and Tuesday and then on Wednesday he goes to the doctor and informs the doctor that he has had flu since Monday and requires a sick note. The doctor is then required to write in the sick note, “I was informed by the patient that …”

What should the employer do?

An employer does not have to accept this as a genuine illness. The doctor is only telling you that the patient says he was ill. The doctor is not certifying that he made an examination and is able to confirm the illness. You would therefore be perfectly justified in informing the employee that the time taken off will be regarded as unpaid leave and that in future he should visit the doctor when he falls ill and not after he has recovered from the alleged illness.

Unfortunately for Angela, her employer recently read an article informing him of his rights to deduct money from her salary because she failed to come to work on Monday and Tuesday and only went to see the doctor on Wednesday, and there was no way of establishing that she definitely was ill on those days.

Conclusion

In light of the above it would be best for employees to see the doctor on the same day that they feel ill, and for employers to insist on seeing the medical certificate and examining it properly.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Can surrogate parents get maternity leave?

a2bAlex and Ben are in love and decide to enter into a civil union on 31 October 2010 in terms of the Civil Union Act[1]. Everything is going great and a year later they decide as a couple to enter into a surrogacy agreement with a surrogate mother in terms of which they shall have a baby. The surrogacy agreement was in accordance with the Children’s Act[2] and was confirmed by Court Order.
.

Ben and Alex discussed the logistics pertaining to their new bundle of joy. In terms of the Surrogacy Agreement they will be handed the child directly after birth, without the surrogate even catching sight of it. One or both of them will have to be available to care for the new-born from the moment of birth.

They decided that Alex would be the one to apply to his employer for paid maternity leave for a period of four months. This maternity application to his employer was in terms of the prescriptions of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act[3] (BCEA) and more specifically in terms of his company’s policy on maternity leave.

The company’s decision

Alex received feedback from his Human Resources Department, informing him that his application for maternity leave was rejected in terms of the company’s policy and the BCEA, as neither provides for the issuing of maternity leave for surrogate parents. As a counter offer Alex was offered and subsequently accepted two months paid adoption leave and two months’ unpaid leave.

Alex referred the dispute to the CCMA on the basis of unfair discrimination, because his company refused to grant his application for maternity leave due to the fact that he is not the biological mother of his child. They further argued that a commissioning parent party to a surrogacy agreement is not entitled, in terms of their company policy, to the full and due four months paid leave as females are under the same policy.

Alex was not at all satisfied with the treatment received by his company and he felt that he has been discriminated against, as the Children’s Act and the Civil Union Act both recognised his status and rights as a commissioning parent. There was therefore no excuse as to why his company and the BCEA should not recognise it as well.

The CCMA, upon hearing the matter, established that Alex’s company’s policies were similar but more stringent than the BCEA in that they provided separately for adoption leave as offered to Alex and Ben, and not at all for surrogacy rights to leave. Furthermore, it came to light that due to recent legislative developments as mentioned above, there was no reason why Alex should not be entitled to maternity leave and that such maternity leave should be granted for the full and/or same period as any other mother is entitled to.

Upon hearing submissions from Alex, Ben and Alex’s employer the CCMA decided that by refusing Alex’s application for maternity leave Alex was unfairly discriminated against by the company in its implementation and structure of its archaic maternity leave policy.

The result

The CCMA ordered that Alex be paid an amount equivalent to two months’ salary for the previously granted unpaid leave. In addition, Alex’s company must recognise the status of parties to a civil union and not discriminate against the rights of commissioning parents who have entered into a surrogacy agreement, in applying its maternity leave policy. The company was also ordered to pay Alex’s costs of having to bring this application.

Legislative intervention is needed in this regard in order to adequately and undeniably address the rights of commissioning parents to maternity leave. This case pertained to company policies and was addressed as such, but Alex and Ben initially sought relief for themselves and other similarly placed applicants so as to prevent unfair discrimination against them in this regard.

References:

  • [1] Act 17 of 2006
  • [2] Act 38 of 2005; Chapter 19
  • [3] Act 75 of 1997; Section 25 (hereinafter BCEA)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)