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BY lvan lsraelstam, Chief Executive of Labour Law Management Consulting. He may be contacted on (011) 888-7944 or 0828522973 or on e-mail address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Go to: www.labourlawadvice.co.za.

Due to the fact that ignorance of the law is no excuse HR and IR professionals who are not up to date with the law can cause employers to come of second best at the CCMA. For example, in the case of Cook vs Jenny B Hairdressing (1999 7 BALR 849) the employee had received several warnings for misconduct. Later on she was dismissed despite the fact that she had not committed another offence. That is, the employer mistakenly dismissed the employee for old offences where warnings had already been given. The employer did not realising that the law prohibits employers from disciplining employees for the same offence twice. The employer therefore lost the case and was forced to pay compensation to the unfairly dismissed employee.

With the above fact staring them in the face why do thousands of employers every year land up getting the short end of the stick at the CCMA, bargaining councils and Labour Court? Primarily the reason is unprofessional management of employees at the workplace. This means that:

Ø An alarming number of South African managers are recruited despite their lack of people management skills and HR does not follow up by sending the line manager for training. That is, the person may have the title of manager or executive director but does not have the specialised management skills necessary to do the job.

Ø HR professionals hire “managers” without carefully ascertaining their past performance as people managers. Such employers forget that management is not simply shuffling papers, attending meetings or shouting the odds, it is getting the job done by selecting, hiring, controlling, motivating and organising subordinates in a productive and cost effective manner.

Ø Employers promote technically good employees or star performers into management positions without giving them the management skills and knowledge to be able to manage. Employers unrealistically expect such employees to acquire professional management skills purely by trial and error on the job.

Ø Where managers lack professional management skills they either fail to manage at all, letting employees do whatever they want, or they over rely on dismissal or other punishments in a vein attempt to keep control.

Ø As occurred in the Jenny B Hairdressing case outlined at the beginning of this article managers too often do not know the labour law and/or do not understand it. This is dangerous because, not only are the laws of discipline today strongly weighted in the employees’ favour, but the labour laws are constantly changing and growing in number.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROFESSIONAL AND UNPROFESSIONAL MANAGER? .....

Ø The ability to recruit subordinates who have proven ability to do the job and to work with the team.

Ø The skill to induct, motivate and coach the recruit into becoming an effecrive and loyal team member.

Ø The will and capacity to develop the skills and careers of employees and to manage their performance to the advantage of company profitability.

Ø The earning of respect of employees, not due to fear but due to an effective, fair and firm people management style.

Ø Acquiring the natural ability to help and guide employees who need such support.

Ø The skill to delegate tasks and responsibilities in such a way that the manager has time to manage instead of wasting time doing employees’ work for them.

Ø In-depth understanding and utilisation of labour law and corrective action principles to prevent or minimise misconduct at the workplace.

Ø Expert disciplinary skills to be used when discipline and disciplinary hearings become necessary.

Ø The ability, knowledge, maturity and foresight to resist disciplining an employee while in an angry state.

Ø The ability to implement discipline in an unemotive, clinical, fair and effective manner.

Ø The willingness and humility to learn and to use labour law/ industrial relations experts where necessary.

HR professionals are therefore encouraged to ensure that managers are properly trained in the above skills so that they will more easily achieve productivity targets and workplace harmony, and so that HR and IR professionals will need to have no fear of being dragged to the CCMA time and again for unfair labour practices.