Employment and Benefits

We have been at the forefront of employment law in the region for many years. We offer a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience in the fields of industrial relations, employment, employee benefits and pensions law in Africa that is hard to match.

  • Overview
  • Specialist Services

Overview

The drive by governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to stimulate employment, protect workers’ rights and address historical imbalances has produced a variety of distinct regulatory systems for employment in the region. This is made more complex by a strong culture of collective bargaining, and an overlap between labour and social issues, between strikes and social protest across the region.

We have been at the forefront of employment law in the region for many years.  We offer a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience in the fields of industrial relations, employment, employee benefits and pensions law in Africa that is hard to match.

Legal 500 (2015) believes that we have “unrivalled public sector experience”; advise “a vast array of multinationals and blue-chip South African corporates”; and have built “a strong record in strikes and retrenchment exercises”.

We keep our clients at the forefront of developments in employment laws, regularly contribute to employment law publications and provide training and present lectures in a variety of forums.

We deliver a wide range of employment law services across both the public and the private sectors in the African countries in which we operate.

Specialist Services

Employment

In the private sector, among other things, we conduct due diligence exercises on employment-related aspects of corporations; highlight the employment consequences of transfers of businesses; and help with restructuring and retrenchment planning.

We regularly provide comprehensive legal advice on the employment aspects of corporate transactions, including privatisations, mergers and acquisitions, takeovers and outsourcing exercises.

Our employment law dispute resolution services extend from litigation to mediation and arbitration and address disciplinary investigations and inquiries, dismissals for incapacity, mutually agreed terminations and employment discrimination law as well as collective bargaining and strike management.

We have experience in lobbying the regulators regarding legislative interpretation and policy formulation to minimise disputes. Members of our team have achieved mediator accreditation from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, the premier dispute resolution organisation in the United Kingdom. In addition, one of our lawyers is one of only two mediators from Africa to have been certified by the International Mediation Institute.

Other areas of specialisation include employment equity; occupational health and safety; data protection and privacy in the workplace; labour broking and the use of contract labour; and restraints of trade; and we provide training in employment law.

Our public sector specialists have extensive experience in all areas of employment law in the public sector. Governments and regulators throughout Southern Africa have benefitted from our legal and policy advice and our skill in drafting complex legislation.

Our private sector clients include major listed and unlisted domestic and international corporations, benefits schemes, bargaining councils and employers’ organisations.

In the public sector, we act for departments of national and provincial governments; tertiary institutions, state-owned enterprises and development corporations; municipalities and local government institutions; and a range of other companies and institutions established by law.

Benefits

We have well-established relationships with regulators, adjudicators, service providers and leading counsel, which keeps us in touch with recent and prospective developments and best practice.

We provide specialised and expert legal support to employers in the context of retirement funding, medical insurance and subsidies, group insured benefits and equity-linked incentive schemes.

Our services range from advice on compliance and best-practice in relation to governance and administration to the effective resolution of benefits-related disputes that arise around retirement, medical and group risk benefits and post-retirement medical aid benefits.

We advise employers on their engagement with service providers in respect of employee benefits and also in their capacity as participants in arrangements of this kind.

We assist clients in drafting and interpreting rules for retirement funds, medical schemes, share incentive schemes, empowerment schemes and the like.

We are often called to assist in due diligence exercises and the drafting of warranties, indemnities and contractual arrangements in relation to the management or transfer of benefits arrangements.

Our services cover commercial mediation, arbitration and litigation in respect of pension, healthcare and other benefits-related disputes.

We regularly assist clients in dealing with complaints from employees and pensioners, and in making representations to the Pension Funds Adjudicator, Financial Services Board, Labour Court, and High Court, Equality Court and other forums or tribunals as necessary.

We represent parties in the High Court, the Labour Court, the Equality Court, employment tribunals, section 15K (pension surplus) tribunals and before the appeal organs of the Financial Services Board and the Council for Medical Schemes.

We also deliver customised training on pensions and medical benefits.

Our clients range from local and international employers to employment benefits service providers across Africa.

Industrial relations

We deal with disputes arising out of the employment relationship, advising and representing parties throughout the processes of mediation, arbitration and litigation.

Disputes relate to dismissals and alleged discrimination; strikes and lock-outs; the review of Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) arbitration awards; wages and collective bargaining; executive incentive schemes and medical and retirement benefit funds.

Many of these disputes culminate in actions at the CCMA, the Labour Court, the Labour Appeal Court, the Pension Funds Adjudicator and the High Court.

However, wherever possible, we identify and pursue the most effective means of avoiding or resolving disputes without resorting to litigation. We do this by applying a variety of alternative dispute resolution processes.

We believe that where there is willingness to resolve a dispute or to take the necessary steps to prevent a dispute from arising, there is always a process that can be found or designed that is suitable to achieve that end (and with it hopefully avoid costly and protracted litigation).

In spite of this, as many workers are employed in essential services, disputes frequently have strong public law overtones and play themselves out in the civil courts, applying administrative law principles.

Conflict in the public sector presents distinct challenges to employers and their lawyers. Collective bargaining takes place against the backdrop of highly regulated financial and budgeting processes, while the bargaining structures themselves are generally inflexible. In addition, many conditions of service are antiquated.

Confusion among practitioners about overlapping jurisdiction between labour courts and civil courts and contradictory court decisions applying administrative law principles are a regular feature of the practice.

Our clients include local and international employers across Africa.

Pensions

We have received the Principal Officers Association “Imbasa Yegolide” award for the best pension law practice every year since 2009.

We believe in the importance of using our knowledge to empower others which is why we are members of the Pension Lawyers Association and the Institute of Retirement Funds.

We produced the leading South African textbook on pension law titled, The Pension Funds Act: A Commentary, and drafted the pensions chapter in Lexis Nexis Law of South Africa, a standard reference work for South African lawyers. We also teach pension law to university students.

We offer specialist expertise in pensions and retirement funds. Service providers, actuaries, administrators, auditors, consultants, investment managers and providers of products and services to retirement funds often seek our advice and other assistance on their rights and obligations, product design and a variety of regulatory matters from policy formulation to corporate governance.

Our dispute resolution services include mediation, arbitration, and litigation in all forums including Pension Fund Adjudications, Financial Services Board Appeal Boards, Medical Scheme Appeal Boards, Labour Court, Equality Court and various ombuds.

We pride ourselves on our independence. We have no exclusive relationship with any particular industry participants and regularly act for different stakeholders, including employers, trustees, administrators, consultants, regulators and service providers. This means we enjoy established relationships throughout the retirement environment and have access to top specialist counsel.

Our clients range from public and private sector employers to retirement funds (pension funds, provident funds, retirement annuity funds, umbrella funds, preservation funds, beneficiary funds and unclaimed benefits funds) and their boards.