Forced changes to employment conditions not on

31st July 2023

Forced changes to employment conditions not on

Operational circumstances such as takeovers, reduced work orders and financial constraints often create the need for employers to change the employment conditions of employees.

However, labour law severely restricts the employer’s right to make such changes without the employees’ consent. Specifically, under the Labour Relations Act (LRA):

However, what if the employer genuinely needs to change the work circumstances due to serious operational problems? That is, what if, for example, client demands are such that a new shift system is required, but the employees are not willing to agree to the change? Is the employer entitled to go into a retrenchment process with a view to hiring employees willing to accept the new terms and conditions of employment?

In the case of CWIU and others vs Algorax (Pty) Ltd) (2003 11 BLLR 1081) the employer needed to switch to a new shift system but the employees refused to accept this. The employer then retrenched its employees but consistently said that it would re-employ them if they would change their mind and agree to the new shift system. The Labour Appeal Court found that:

In the case of Pedzinski vs Andisa Securities (Pty) Ltd (2006, 2 BLLR 184) The employer informed the employee that, if she did not agree to extend her working hours to full day she would be retrenched. When she was retrenched she took the employer to the Labour Court where it was decided that:

While the making of such changes are often justified employers need to be extremely careful as to how they go about this. Therefore, before they begin to implement any changes that affect employees, employers need to get advice from a labour law expert who also understands practical operational needs.

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Written by by Ivan Israelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting. He may be contacted on (011) 888-7944 or 0828522973 or on e-mail: Go to: