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HR 101 – What to do when . . . You want to avoid clashes with Employees

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice.

For me, prevention is always much better than a cure.

Here are a few tips that will assist in ensuring that there are fewer “clashes” between employees and employers.

• Make sure that the employees that are in charge of “procurement” of any kind, do not have private relationships with your suppliers.

This means that you should not have a staff member in charge of purchasing all of the stationary for the Company, who is married to someone who owns a stationery store. This is clearly a conflict of interest and could result in illegal ‘kickbacks’ and the earning of unearned commissions. It could also end up meaning that your Company is paying bigger fees for purchases than you should be.

• Make sure that your staff members have written permission to carry on with a business that is in competition with your own.

Now, this is just common sense don’t you think? Staff members shouldn’t be doing anything on the side without your written consent. Make sure that whatever it is that they are going to be doing to earn extra cash, is not in competition with you, and make sure that it is not going to interfere with their duties at the office.

• Employers cannot expect employees to perform illegal duties.

Be careful here. If you instruct the bookkeeper not to pay SARS for any reason, you are instructing said bookkeeper to break the law! Although the bookkeeper works for you and should be loyal to you and your company, you cannot expect the employee to break the law on your behalf. Make sure that the instructions that you give to your employee are within the boundaries of the law.

• Employers cannot expect employees to ignore their own legal rights in order to satisfy the interests of the employer.

Again, be fair – it’s your business and you can work as much overtime as you like, but you cannot expect your employees to work excessive overtime. It’s not good for their well being and ultimately it’s not good for your Company. Overly tired employees make mistakes that could cost the company dearly.

• An employee who is involved with a Trade Union’s first loyalty is to the Trade Union and not the employer, particularly where the law is protecting the employees’ rights and not the employer’s interests.

As much as this is a difficult one to swallow, it is the law! An employee, who is a Manager for example, and who is also a member of the Trade Union, cannot be expected to inform on issues that were discussed in the Trade Union meetings. It is also illegal for the Employer to prevent someone in a managerial position from becoming a Union member. That said, Managers who are Union members can be disciplined in certain instances. For example, if a Manager was discovered, not disciplining their subordinates because they were fellow Union members, said Manager could be disciplined themselves for not performing their own functions.

This is a very difficult one to constrict though therefore if you have a situation where you feel that a Manager is not performing their duties because of Union issues, I would suggest that you contact an accredited Labour Attorney who will advise you on the case in question.

Whatever the problem, remember to always be fair, be transparent, be approachable and on occasion be flexible.