How to Retrench Employees in South Africa
Retrenchments are not easy, but when your business struggles and restructuring is required, you may have no other choice than to retrench some of the employees. However, it is also very easy to find yourself on the wrong side of labour laws in the country, should you fail to follow the correct procedure or retrench staff for invalid reasons. To this end, we recommend making use of top labour lawyers in South Africa to help you through the process and thus to ensure fairness.
As top labour lawyers in South Africa will explain, the reasons for retrenching staff members need to be valid and the process that you follow should be in accordance with labour legislation requirements. The retrenchments must be technologically, economically, and structurally needed. In addition, the retrenchment process must be done with extensive consultation with the employees.
You cannot decide overnight to retrench employees and just notify them of the decision. Their lives are affected and as such, it is essential to start conversations early, long before the actual retrenchments take place. We highly recommend seeking legal advice on the matter from top labour lawyers in South Africa.
The early discussion of the reasons and processes for retrenchment will give the employees time to adjust their lives and find suitable alternative employment. It will also give you the opportunity to minimise retrenchments and perhaps even extend the timeframes for such, in order to reduce the effects of retrenchments on your company and the employees. Such discussions may even provide insight as to alternatives to deal with the cost of running the business, increase profits, or manage cash flow better. Top labour lawyers in South Africa can assist during the discussion phases as well.
The consultation with employees should be started by means of a meeting scheduled specifically to discuss the possibility of retrenchments. Notify the employees of the scheduled meeting through a memo that discloses what the meeting will be about. Here too, you will benefit from the expertise offered by top labour lawyers in South Africa, as the wording of the memo must be carefully selected.
It is important to state the reasons for retrenchments, when the retrenchments will start, what the timeframe will be, and who will be affected. You cannot keep employees in the dark, as they depend on the employment for income. Many of them have families also depending on them and they may have debts to pay. Sudden retrenchments or unclear processes can leave them stranded with financial problems.
During such discussions, be open to alternatives to retrenchment, such as ways to reduce work hours and thus cost to company, or even salary cuts. Such measures may very well be enough to reduce the immediate financial pressure on the company and help it regain its financial standing.
Choosing the employees for retrenchment can be a difficult task. Seek advice from top labour lawyers in South Africa regarding the matter. You cannot decide without input from employees who should be retrenched.
According to South African labour laws, the employer and employees must agree on who to retrench. It is also essential to understand that retrenchment cannot be used as a means to get rid of unwanted or non-performing employees. It is furthermore essential to avoid any form of discrimination in retrenchments. If you, for example, only retrench female workers, you could be discriminating based on gender.
To avoid pitfalls when it comes to retrenchments seek legal advice from top and experienced labour lawyers in South Africa. Our team of attorneys can help you follow the correct procedures when it comes to the fair selection of who to retrench.
Call 011 234 2125 for assistance from our team of labour lawyers in South Africa regarding all aspects of employment relations.
Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Call on our attorneys for legal advice, rather than relying on the information herein to make any decisions. The information is relevant to the date of publishing – October 2018.