Unfortunately, 2015 has been a year of retrenchment. We as attorneys have been extremely busy dismissing staff across the board for operational requirements. The economy has not been helpful and nor has the amendments to the Labour Relations Act. Employers, big and small, have been looking for ways and means of reducing their workforce by mechanising, asking long serving employees to do longer hours and even refusing to invest further in their businesses. Many employers are feeling despondent and are certainly not looking for alternate markets to try and ensure that employees are retained.
The Labour Relations Act does enjoin employers to ensure that when embarking upon a retrenchment exercise this should be done fairly and with compassion. The legislation says that the process should be a joint problem solving exercise.
Many employers come to us having already made a decision. We need to reverse this decision and get back to the drawing board to ensure that both the employer and the employee can explore various alternatives and options. When retrenchment becomes inevitable it is also important to try and help the employees affected by the retrenchment by ensuring that they have their paperwork fully completed and that they are given the tools to try and find alternative employment after the harrowing exercise of a dismissal for operational requirements. There are very few guidelines as to how an employer could try and help an employee land on his or her feet after the dismissal.
One such handbook written by Jennifer Ritchie is probably the first of its kind in that it gives practical guidelines on a step-by-step basis to try and help the employees who have been through the devastating retrenchment. It is recommended that every single employer (and employee) who is facing retrenchment read the book, which is called “Retrenchment – A Coaching Handbook for Reinventing Yourself”. Not only is it a legislative imperative to help employees beyond the retrenchment but it is the humane thing to do.