The field of labor law encompasses various aspects, drawing from several key sources. Primarily, it is derived from labor Acts, namely the Employment, Workers Compensation, Trade Disputes, Trade Unions, and Employers Organizations, as well as the Immigration Acts, respectively.
Additionally, labor law finds its foundation in case law as delineated in judgments, the standards set by the International Labour Organization, and, finally, the Codes of Good Practice, Model Procedures, and Agreements. One might question the role of Human Resources Policies, their significance, and their limitations. By the end of this article, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of these aspects, addressing common queries often received on this subject. Read on for more clarity!
Let’s start with HR policies, these are carefully documented rules and processes that provide general and practical guidance and advice on employment issues i.e., basically govern the employment relationship. The labour Acts on the other hand perform different functions but over and above everything they are a guide on what is expected of the various role players where matters of employment are concerned. For example, the Employment Act provides minimum terms and conditions for all employees as well as basic employment rights, while the Trades Disputes Act provides procedures for the settlement of disputes generally and for the regulation of industrial action.
As explained above, labour Acts are like the parent in the employment relationship. They are likened to a parent since they to a certain degree reign supreme, what they say is law and violations have serious consequences. Labour Acts are the law but they do not necessarily do this in isolation as alluded to above. For example, the Employment Act clearly outlines that employees cannot earn less than 1.25 leave days a month, any employer who violates this will surely be in for it. Now, the HR policies on the other hand expand on what is outlined on the labour Acts for example, the leave policy could in addition to stating the leave entitlements also outline the leave application process. This way all stakeholders would know what they can expect and what is expected of them. HR policies are guided by the labour Acts not in isolation though.
The most frequently asked question related to the subject matter is what does the Employment Act say about abscondment and how many days are outlined there? Section 26(4i) of the Employment Act states that an employment contract may be terminated without serving notice or payment of notice in lieu if there is “persistent absence from work without permission.” It is evident the Act does not explicitly define this as abscondment, nor does it specify how many days are considered persistent. This therefore leaves it to the HR policies to define. The second most frequently asked question is what does the Employment Act say about leave encashment? Leave with pay or annual leave as it is commonly known is meant to afford employees the opportunity to get paid time off work to rest or attend to personal matters. This is with the understanding that employees are human beings before they are workers therefore, fatigue does creep in eventually which would affect their productivity. This as such explains why the Employment Act does not factor in the leave encashment option. This is usually an arrangement or option that employers avail to their employees, normally outlined in the HR policies.
Labour Acts do not always explain concepts in detail, some are not even mentioned in the Acts. As a result, HR policies are brought in to bridge this gap and provide clarity. Most HR best practices are simply put in place or included in HR policies for the betterment of life at work and may not necessarily exist in labour Acts. As an employer to be safe, familiarize yourself with the labour law, ensure HR policies are put in place and that they are compliant.
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