The untrained layperson cannot be expected to travel through the jungle of labour case law without a guide who has a solid labour law track record.
The question is, how do you distinguish a true labour law expert from one who will lead you astray? We are frequently called in to fix up such messes, but sometimes the damage cannot be undone.
The solution is therefore not in the cure, but in prevention. That is, every employer needs to have available a labour law advisor who can help to ensure that the employer does not fall prey to the jungle’s pitfalls.
It is extremely difficult to find and choose the right labour expert because:
- The lay business person may not know enough about the law to be able to assess whether the so-called specialist truly is a labour law expert
- There are a great many so-called labour experts around
- The fee may be so low that it could tempt you to use the consultant
Thus employers should ensure that the labour expert they choose:
- Has a tertiary qualification in the labour relations field
- Has substantial experience as a labour law consultant or labour lawyer
- Has a solid, hands-on background in corporate industrial relations
- Shows his/her updated 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
- Charges a fee that is affordable, but not suspiciously low
- Is willing to share his/her knowledge via in-house training courses for managers rather than trying to make the employer dependent on him/her
- Provides the full spectrum of labour law/industrial relations services a comprehensive service rather than fragmented assistance
The services that should be offered include, amongst others:
- Chairing of disciplinary hearings
- Representation of employers at CCMA
- Industrial relations policy development
- Review and drafting of employment contracts
- Retrenchment services
- Negotiating and drafting union recognition agreements
- Wage negotiations
- Strike handling
- Conducting of IR audits
- Employment equity services
Choosing the wrong expert is like using a blind guide. So, don’t enter the jungle until you have an expert who can see and deal with the dangers.