The importance of Labour Law policies

I have had the privilege of spending time at the highest levels of Labour Law policy making, including a number of years at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, sitting in NEDLAC for a number of years as well as in other ministerial appointments.

As I grow older, and practice Labour Relations more, I realise that the requirement for procedural and substantive fairness is often misinterpreted in Labour Law circles. The aspect of procedure is fairly well defined, if you want to dismiss there is a process to follow and if you want to retrench, there is a process to follow.

However, there is a complementary requirement to procedural fairness, which is substantive fairness. Substance implies that there is a degree of weighting if someone is referred to as a person of substance it means they have integrity and some sense of underlying credibility.


Exercise emotional intelligence

Substantive fairness in Labour Relations for me is epitomized in the requirement to exercise emotional intelligence when disciplining employees when dealing with poor performance as well as, unfortunately, in the instance of retrenchments. Substance requires that the employer representative vicariously empathizes with those with whom they are dealing. In other words, in the process of dealing with matters that require courageous conversations that relationships are prioritized and that the maintenance and strengthening of those relationships are given priority.

This would not be possible in the absence of employer reps having EQ and the ability to empathize and vicariously place themselves in the shoes of those people on the other end of that process. EQ is, therefore, very much equated, and comparable with substantive fairness. It’s time for organisations to empower their employer representatives in the art of accessing the right emotional states at the right times in order to ensure that whilst upholding discipline, relationships and trust are also given the necessary priority.

John Botha

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