I have lost count of the number of times that employers have asked me to sort out a mess made by their labour consultant or other so-called expert. I receive endless requests that go like this: “Our labour expert advised us to fire our employee and now the CCMA tells us that the dismissal was unfair”. Or “The disciplinary policy drawn up by our labour expert was wrong and we have therefore followed the wrong procedure”.
While we are often able to fix up the mess:
- This often happens at a cost to the employer
- Sometimes the problem is to far gone for it to be sorted out.
The solution is therefore not in the cure but in prevention. That is, every employer needs to have available, at short notice, a labour law advisor who can help to ensure that the employer does not get into hot water all the time.
However, it is extremely difficult to find and choose a labour expert who suits your needs and who knows what he/she is doing. This is because:
- The lay business owner or manager does not always know enough about the law to be able to assess whether the so-called specialist truly is a labour law expert.
- It is not always easy to find out the reputation of the consultant.
- There are a great many so-called labour experts around.
- The brochures and other promotional materials you receive may look impressive but could be exaggerated.
- You may find it embarrassing to ask the consultant for proof of his/her credentials and the proof you get may not be genuine.
- The recommendation you get may be from the consultant’s friend who may be biased.
- The consultant’s fee may be so low that it could tempt you to use the consultant.
With all these pitfalls it is extremely difficult to choose a labour representative who will keep you out of trouble rather than land you in it! There are many reputable and highly competent labour law experts in South Africa. The question is, how does the business owner or manager fight his/her way through the jungle of misinformation to find the right expert? While there is no foolproof solution a number of guidelines in this regard can be useful. Try to ensure that the labour expert you choose:
- Has a tertiary qualification in the labour relations or human resources field rather than some totally unrelated field
- Has substantial experience as a labour law consultant or labour lawyer
- Has a solid background in corporate industrial relations management so that he/she can understand the practical everyday needs at the coalface
- Is closely affiliated to a business labour forum through which he/she can keep in touch with the latest developments in industry, in trade union activity and in labour legislation
- Shows his/her knowledge of labour relations via publications, speaking at conferences and the presentation of seminars.
- Has quick access to the latest labour statutes and to case law decisions that are published
- Charges a fee that is not suspiciously low but that is affordable in terms of your own budget
- Is willing to share his/her knowledge via in-house training courses for you managers rather than trying to make you dependent on him/her
- Provides the full spectrum of labour law and industrial relations services so that you can obtain a comprehensive service rather than fragmented assistance. The services that should be offered include:
o Chairing of disciplinary hearings
o Representation of employers at CCMA and bargaining councils
o Labour relations consultation, labour litigation and legal advice
o Industrial relations and human resources policy development
o Review and drafting of employment contracts
o Retrenchment, restructuring and rightsizing
o Drafting of outsourcing agreements
o Negotiating and drafting union recognition agreements
o Union wage negotiations
o Strike handling
o Writing of legal opinions on all Labour Law and IR/HR matters
o Conducting of IR audits
o Implementation of employment equity and completion of EE Reports and design and implementation of EE policies and plans
o Mentoring of HR/IR executives, managers, officers and trainee HR/IR professionals
Written by lvan lsraelstam, CEO Labour Law Management Consulting.
Tel: (011) 888-7944
E-mail address: email@example.com.
This article first appeared in The Star.