Recent trends in employment litigation in South Africa

employment laws
10 Oct 2023


Employment laws in South Africa can be complex, but recent changes have made it crucial for everyone to grasp the essentials. In this article, we’ll break down some key trends in South African employment law without all the legal jargon.

Strikes and their impact

Strikes often involve violence, intimidation and damage to property, which can get quite intense in South Africa. Employers sometimes rush to the Labour Court to stop these actions using an “interdict”. However, this can be problematic because it can be misused by employers with ulterior motives, and it can undermine collective action.

The Constitutional Court recently held that we should be cautious about using interdicts against striking employees. While they acknowledged that strike-related misconduct is a big issue, they also pointed out that employers can misuse interdicts and harm the spirit of collective action.

Changes to the Employment Equity Act

The Employment Equity Act, which has been around since 1998, got a makeover with the Employment Equity Amendment Act in 2022. The idea behind these changes is to promote diversity and equality in the workplace. Here are the key changes:

  1. These changes only apply to some employers, which makes life easier for smaller ones.
  2. Employers now have to set targets for representing historically disadvantaged groups, like people of different races, genders, and those with disabilities, at all job levels.
  3. Employers must analyse pay equity and report their progress in achieving diversity and equality.
  4. The goal is to create a workplace where everyone has a fair shot, eliminating discrimination and promoting equal opportunities. These changes will significantly impact South African employers, reshaping how they do business.

Businesses need to understand these changes to stay compliant and navigate the evolving landscape of employment equity. They need to ensure that everyone in their workplace has a fair shot, free from discrimination.

Tackling workplace harassment

There’s a new code in town that helps employers prevent and deal with workplace harassment. This code has some key points:

  1. Harassment is any unwanted behaviour based on race, gender, age, etc.
  2. The code tells employers how to investigate and resolve harassment complaints and requires them to have a written anti-harassment policy.
  3. Employers have to take steps to prevent harassment, create a respectful workplace, and make sure everyone knows their rights.
  4. Complaints of harassment should be taken seriously and investigated confidentially, and the complainant should be protected from retaliation.

This new code is a significant development, guiding employers on how to create a harassment-free workplace. Employers must proactively ensure everyone knows their rights and that harassment is not tolerated. Failure to comply can result in legal consequences and damage a company’s reputation.

Laws protecting employees

Employment laws in South Africa apply to most employees working in the country. There are two primary laws to remember:

  1. The Labour Relations Act (“LRA”) covers things like unions, strikes and dispute resolution. It also sets up bodies like the CCMA to help resolve employment disputes.
  2. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (“BCEA”): This law deals with working hours, leave, ending employment, record-keeping and child labour. It sets the minimum standards that employers must follow.

Employment laws in South Africa are extensive and apply to nearly all workers. Employers must adhere to these laws to provide the minimum employment conditions required by law. If there are disputes, there are institutions like the CCMA and the Labour Appeal Court to help resolve them.


Navigating employment laws in South Africa can be challenging due to their complexity and constant evolution. Employers and employees must stay informed about the latest developments to ensure they comply with the law and protect their rights. The key employment laws to remember are the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which govern various aspects of employment. South African law also emphasises anti-discrimination measures and affirmative action policies to create inclusive workplaces. By understanding and adhering to these laws, everyone can contribute to South Africa’s economic growth and social progress.

For any assistance, contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Annelise Petzer

Annelise Petzer studied through the University of South Africa and obtained her Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) in 2019 before completing her LEAD Practical Legal Training at UCT and commencing... Read more about Annelise Petzer


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