Failure to invest in best practices proving costly for employers

Labour-Law1

Davies Ndumiso Sibanda, Labour Matters
MANY employers get into trouble with the law because they do not invest in time to get to know basics in people management and do not work to best practices in people management.

Most of the basic mistakes are those that could have been easily avoided had the employer invested some time in getting to understand the basics.

Today, a number of organisations that unilaterally reduced workers’ salaries without following the law are starting to face the music with workers litigating and the courts declaring the salary cuts unlawful and ordering that workers be refunded.

Many chief executives and senior managers use threats of dismissal to force the workers into submission, but such tactics do not work.

In some unfortunate occasions, I have even seen employers using lawyers and labour consultants to push workers into submission and this also doesn’t work as today legal capacity is floating and readily available amongst workers and workers have been known to take lawyers head-on and succeed.

There are instances when employees have been made to work long hours without overtime being paid. Today many workers will litigate successfully at a huge cost for the employer. Where workers work 48 hours a week or 208 hours a month then the hours must add up.

I know several organisations in the retail sector that make workers come to work 30 or so minutes before the shop opens and remain 30 minutes after the shop closes and these hours are not paid.

When a problem arises, courts will scrutinise allowable unpaid hours and the rest will be paid especially when it is established that the worker will be working during such periods.

In one case, Susan who worked for a retail outlet clocked one hour overtime that was not paid. On dismissal Susan claimed 26 hours overtime a month for the last 24 months and the time book confirmed her time in total.

The hours at 1½ times for overtime during the week and double time for weekends translated to 1 340 hours which comes to 6.5 months’ salary and that will have to be paid at current rate.

This challenge could have been easily avoided had the employer put in place an appropriate roster that conforms to the law. The problem has not ended there. After Susan’s success, unions and labour consultants are encouraging remaining workers to also litigate so as to be paid like Susan.

Never mind the money motive of some trade unionists and consultants the bottom-line is that reckless management of overtime can sink the business.

In one case, the employer was recovering stock shrinkage breakages and expired merchandise costs from workers. One former worker successfully litigated and was refunded. This will obviously encourage others to do the same and the cost for the employer could be huge.

All this could have been avoided if the employer took time to learn or call an expert to do things for him correctly. One of the most unwise things is for the employer to think that he can run the business without a workers’ committee and where it is there, one runs with untrained workers’ committee members.

Things like negotiating internal processes and employee discipline will be difficult to manage and for many matters, parties will be referred to the Works Council and where there is no workers’ committee, there can be no Works Council a very important tool for managing labour relations and productivity improvement.

In conclusion, there are many other best practice and legal issues in people management costing organisations much more than the cost of having proper systems in place and having people trained to manage them.

*Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: Email: [email protected]

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