How to identify common Unfair Labour Practices

The definition of unfair labour practices according to South African law is:

“Unfair labour practice means any unfair act or omission that arises between an employer and an employee involving –

  • Unfair conduct by the employer relating to the promotion, demotion, protection (excluding disputes about dismissals for a reason relating to probation) or training of an employee or relating to the provision of benefits to an employee.
  • The unfair suspension of an employee or any other unfair disciplinary action short of dismissal in respect of an employee
  • A failure or refusal by an employer to reinstate or re-employ a former employee in terms of any agreement; and
  • An occupational detriment, other than dismissal, in contravention of the Protected Disclosures Act, 2000 (Act No. 26 of 2000), on account of the employee having made a protected disclosure defined in that Act.”

Unfair Labour PracticesNavigating the world of work can be complex and tricky. While many employers can be commended for the work they do, unfortunately there are a few employers who intentionally commit unfair labour practices that interfere with the rights of employees. These practices are prohibited by law.

Under the current labour Act, employers are the only entities that can commit unfair labour practices.

Training and promotion:
It is considered an unfair labour practice when the employer deviates from usual practices relating to promotion, demotion, probation or training.

Training certain employees while excluding others for no permissible reason, may be considered unfair labour practice.

The correct legal procedure must be followed when disciplinary action is taken against an employee. Prior written warnings must be sent. A common example is when an employee is suspended or disciplined following an argument with a superior when an employee is not paid while under suspension.

When an employee is retrenched and there is an understanding that he or she will be reinstated if another post becomes available in the future, it is expected that the employer will keep their word. If the employer doesn’t live up to this agreement, this may be considered unfair labour practice.

Reporting criminal activity:
An employee may report an employer is they feel that the employer is committing a criminal offence. If the employer finds out and takes unfair action against the employee, it constitutes unfair labour practice.

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