Monday, March 17, 2008

POPIA, EEA, COIDA, OHSA…….Huh? South African labour law is highly regulated and we employment lawyers often speak in acronyms when it comes to labour legislation. This article contains a simple layman’s guide to some of the labour legislation lingo that lawyers use.
The LRA refers to the Labour Relations Act. The LRA deals with freedom of association (including organisational rights), collective bargaining, industrial action, unfair dismissal and dispute resolution. In a non unionised environment an employer will for the most part deal with the unfair dismissal and unfair labour practice provisions of the LRA. These provisions are, of course, also relevant in a unionised environment but an employer who is unionised will also need to be on top of the provisions of the act dealing with organisational rights, collective bargaining and industrial action.
The BCEA refers to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. The BCEA provides for minimum terms and conditions of employment which apply to all employers and employees. However, the BCEA excludes employees earning in excess of R149 736.00 from certain provisions of the BCEA, for example the provisions relating to working hours, meal intervals, night work and overtime. An individual contract of employment may not prescribe terms and conditions of employment which are less favourable than those contained in the BCEA but an employer and employee may agree to terms and conditions that are more favourable to the employee.
The UIA refers to the Unemployment Insurance Act. There is no broad-based national insurance scheme in South Africa. However, there is an unemployment insurance fund set up under the UIA.  The UIA established the unemployment insurance fund to provide for the payment from the fund of unemployment benefits to certain employees, and for the payment of illness, maternity, adoption and dependant’s benefits.
COIDA refers to the Compensation for Occupational Injuries & Diseases Act. COIDA is a statute that provides for compensation for disablement or death caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment. COIDA imposes a large number of obligations upon employers carrying on business within South Africa and non-compliance can result in severe penalties. 
OHSA refers to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The main purpose of OHSA is to provide for the health and safety of employees at work.  OHSA sets out the minimum rights and duties of employers and employees to maintain a healthy and safe working environment.
The EEA refers to the Employment Equity Act. The EEA aims to achieve equity in employment by prohibiting unfair discrimination, promoting equal employment opportunities and by requiring implementation of affirmative action measures. The unfair discrimination provisions of the EEA apply to all employers, whereas the affirmative action provisions do not.
Commonly referred to as the Interception Act, the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act, allows employers to intercept employee communications when certain requirements have been met. The Interception Act applies both to direct oral communications and to indirect communications made via a telecommunications system (i.e. telephone, voicemail, e-mail and the internet).
POIPA refers to the Protection of Personal Information Act. POPIA has not yet come into force and is still in the form of a Bill. It is not clear when this legislation will come into force but we anticipate that this will happen at the end of the year. POPIA seeks to protect the personal information of identifiable natural persons. POPIA is relevant to an employer not only from the perspective of processing information relating to employees, but also from the perspective of dealing with client-information.
These are not the only pieces of legislation applicable in the employment context. Some of the others are the Constitution, the Income Tax Act [the ITA], the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act [BBBEE], the Pension Funds Act [the PFA], and the Skills Development Act [the SDA]. A never ending list of acronyms!
Karen Fulton is a director and Eva Mudely is a senior associate of Bowman Gilfillan