Book Review – Employment Rights

by John Grogan (3rd Edition) (472 pages)
Juta & Co (Pty) Ltd www.jutalaw.co.za

Employment Rights“Who first invented work, and bound the free and holiday-rejoicing spirit down to that dry drudgery at the desk’s dry wood?”– Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

This is the third edition of a work covering terrain where there continues to be important developments in the law of employment. Significant new case law has been incorporated into the text, which is also available in electronic form in Juta’s Labour Law Library, which is updated quarterly.

Employment Rights takes its place as one of a quartet of volumes by the same author, the others being Dismissal, Collective Labour Law, and Labour Litigation and Dispute Resolution. The table top for these four companion legs is the author’s comprehensive book Workplace Law, first published in 1996. This integrated mini-library forms a unique and comprehensive quintet, providing in-dept treatment of labour law across the board.

What is perhaps not always fully appreciated is that definitive sources such as these books not only assist in resolving desputes, informing due process and determining outcomes, but also contribute to avoiding litigation and guiding conduct so as to prevent disputes. Good labour practices allow potential pitfalls to be identified before they occur. Mutual respect between the parties in the employment embrace fosters relationships where channels of communication and acceptance of the legal process are already in place when problems occur.

This volume covers relations between employers and employees from the commencement of employment to its termination. The essentials of the contract of employment are explained as a basis for understanding how an employment relationship arises, and the rights and obligations of the parties to the contract. The author comments:

“Today the fundamentals of the contractual relationship between employers and employees have been largely superseded by statute: legislation sets minimum standards with which all employers must conform, limits employers’ freedom to appoint and promote, prohibits unfair practices and unfair discrimination, and compels employers to ensure health and safety in the workplace and to make provision for the possibility that they may not be able to provide work for their employees indefinitely. In addition to statutory changes, the courts and arbitrators have also further developed or clarified the law of employment in significant respects in the past five years, particularly with regard to the jurisprudence of unfair labour practices and unfair discrimination.”

Written in a clear and readable style, this a reliable, convenient and indispensable guide for lawyers, judicial officers, employers, employees, human resource practitioners, trade union officials and students. Footnotes provide

legal authority where required, the subject index is compact but extensive, and tables of cases and statutes underpin the text.

A fine example of the author’s grasp of the subject matter and his ability to express this in a balanced, lucid and rational manner is found in his commentary on grounds of unfair discrimination not specifically listed in the Employment Equity Act. So also with his discussion on miscellaneous, unnamed arbitrary grounds for which dismissal is prohibited. He points out that the addition of ‘arbitrary grounds’ to the prohibited grounds listed in section 6(1) of EEA (such as race, gender, pregnancy, age, religion, disability) “does not create a ragbag into which any complaints about allegedly unfair treatment can be accommodated.”

The distinguished author Dr John Grogan BA (Hons), B.Iuris, LLB, LLM, PhD is a former Professor and Head of the Department of Law at Rhodes University. He has served as an acting judge in the Labour and High Courts, and as senior commissioner of the CCMA as well as a number of bargaining councils and as an arbitrator. His prolific contributions through his teaching and regular commentary on labour law have been ground-breaking, leaving no stone unturned. With his characteristic modesty, he writes:

“This volume, and the other three, could not have been written without the collective contributions of judges, commissioners, arbitrators, legal practitioners, academics and trade union officials that together make up the rich body of South African labour jurisprudence.”

This is a mature and authoritative resource, detailed but never dense. It is about as far from being a dull paper-weight as one can imagine. The author’s method of illustrating the various topics such as prohibited grounds constituting unfair discrimination is to ask the questions that arise and then to answer them by illustrations from actual case law and judgments. In the pressure-cooker of workplace conflict and difficult issues which need to be resolved, this is a resource which deftly combines an understanding of the principles involved with the practicalities of their application.

Review by Louis Rood BA LLB (UCT), Consultant at Fairbridges Wertheim Becker Attorneys.

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