Our Employment practice

delivers proactive solutions to the challenges our clients face in the management of their people.

Groundbreaking Matters

The team has the ability to “bring a wealth of knowledge in terms of precedent” and the lawyers “are able to mix law and business strategy.”

Chambers Global 2017

"They are willing to go that extra mile and go above and beyond what is required. They make you feel good as a client."

Chambers Global 2016

Our expertise extends to advising and representing clients in all employment-related matters, including:

  • All matters relating to the Employment Equity Act.
  • Disciplinary proceedings.
  • Strikes, collective agreements and lock-outs.
  • Training.
  • Drafting and assessing employment policies.
  • Occupational health and safety.
  • Corporate immigration.
  • Employee benefits.
  • The Companies Act.
  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising Cricket South Africa, the governing body for professional and amateur cricket in South Africa.  Our employment law team advised this major client in the sports sector with regard to the high profile dismissal of the Gerald Majola, the CEO of the South African cricket board from 2000 to 2012. 

    Gerald Majola was at the heart of a scandal over unauthorised bonuses and the case received extensive media coverage.  Our Tier One labour law team was called to advise in all aspects of the termination of Gerald Majola’s services was terminated after the international ZPl and ICC cricket tournaments.  The matter culminated in an application by Majola to the Constitutional Court which was dismissed.

    Our work on this mandate demonstrates how our team is highly skilled in handling all aspects of high profile media disputes in the public spotlight, guiding well-known clients in all stages to bring such matters to a successful conclusion, minimising long term reputational damage and more.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising Absa Bank Limited with regard to the parliamentary approval of the four amendment Acts namely the Labour Relations Amendment Bill 2012; the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill 2012; the Employment Services Bill 2012; and the Employment Equity Amendment Bill 2012.

    In January 2015, amendments to the Labour Relations Act 66 came into force.  Absa Bank was keen to understand how the changes to the act would affect its business.  Our team was called to highlight the amendments within the act most relevant to the bank’s HR policies and to advise at a strategic level on potential changes to the bank’s protocols and their implementation. 

    Absa Bank Limited is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barclays Africa Group Limited.  As a leading player in financial services in South Africa, the entity is subject to strict regulation and scrutiny.  The fact this entity has chosen to rely on our employment law expertise in defining and amending its internal protocols in line with brand new legislation demonstrates well why we have earned a reputation for thought leadership in employment law across South Africa.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr advised Western Platinum Limited, a subsidiary of UK-based, Lonmin plc., which owns and operates Platinum mines and refineries.  Our team advised WPL in a landmark ruling in the Labour Appeal Court.

    The case centred on whether an oral agreement existed between the parties regarding the method of calculating overtime pay on full remuneration package, and whether same could be subject of rectification if such oral agreement was found to exist.  Our client claimed absolution from the instance and it succeeded. 

    In a strong demonstration of our thought leadership in South Africa, this was one of the first ever cases to deal with this principle in this context.  The case examined the instance where the written collective agreement made no mention of changes to the method of calculating overtime beyond that established in Basic Conditions of Employment Act.  An adverse decision would have had very serious financial consequences for our client. 

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr advised SEIFSA in relation to the 2014 national Industry strike.  SEIFSA represents 27 separate employer organizations in the central collective bargaining structures in the metals and engineering industries.  Our employment law team SEIFSA on strategic issues during the 2014 national wage strike affecting those sectors.  This included counselling SEIFSA with regard to the interest arbitration process regarding allocation of seats allotted to employees party to the Metals and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council.

    Our work on this matter demonstrates well how we are able to handle complex labour negotiations at all levels in the context of a high pressure national strike situation.  Our deep familiarity with handling matters of this nature makes ours the go-to team for leading industry bodies in South Africa on such cases.  Our ability to advise clients in the full range of disputes, arbitration and mediation contexts with regard to major employment law matters is also well demonstrated here.
  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising Eskom Holdings SOC Limited with regard to an essential services dispute before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in South Africa.  South Africa-based, Eskom is the largest electricity producer in Africa, so the outcome of this matter is of particular national significance. 

    The generation, transmission and distribution of power is deemed to be an essential service under South African law and is the subject of a minimum services agreement between the government and several energy & natural resources companies, including Eskom.  However, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) refused to abide by the agreement as they were opposed to the definition of 'general workers'. 

    The unions were of the view that the agreement was too restrictive and that the definition of general workers precluded employees designated as such from participating in industrial action.  The matter is now being heard at the Essential Services Commission.

    Our work on this matter is a strong example of the skills for which this team has earned its strength of reputation.  Our team is advising the continent’s leading electrical energy producer in a headline dispute relating the labour law aspects of the provision of essential energy service in South Africa.  The issues at hand are highly complex, the negotiations are taking place at the highest levels and the outcome has huge ramifications for South Africa.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr advised repeat client, Lonmin Platinum, representing its interests at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry chaired by retired Judge Farlam and his two Commissioners.  This Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigated the causes of the death of 44 persons (including 34 striking miners) in August 2012 during the Marikana miners' strike which received extensive media coverage. 

    Work in the period under review on this case included advising with regard to a review of Lonmin's role in the crisis that developed in the platinum sector at that time.  This was clearly a business-critical matter for the client, with enormous implications for all relevant role players.  Our team was able to play a lead role.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr advised Lonmin, the UK-based mining giant and an anchor clients of the firm, in this major dispute which was a highly significant in respect of the protracted nature of the devastating impact of the strike across the platinum sector.  Our team counselled Lonmin at the highest strategic levels in its handling of all issues of labour law throughout this difficult period.
    This case called into question the application of the principle of Boulwarism (not previously considered in our law).  That is, whether a protected strike marred by violence and bad faith bargaining could lose its protected status as well as the right of employers to unilaterally implement their final wage proposals.  Only a Tier One team is capable of handling all of the high end, complex issues we have faced alongside our client during this case.  Our ability to guide the client at every stage – offering commercial, legal and strategic advice at the highest levels has been of major commercial benefit to the client.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising Arcelormittal South Africa Limited, a leading playing in the energy & natural resources sector.  Our employment law team has been advising the client with regard to its labour broker strategy.  Arcelormittal’s business is primarily reliant on labour brokers to restructure their business operations so as to minimise the risk and cost.  The recent changes in South Africa’s employment laws have had a very significant impact on the company’s operations.  Our team has been called to guide the client in each step of the implementation of a new compliance programme to ensure Arcelormittal’s restructuring plans meet the new requirements.

    Our work on this matter demonstrates very clearly the Tier One nature of the experience to which clients of our employment team have access.  Our lawyers have been able to handle all of the issues raised by Arcelormittal’s complex workforce restructuring, helping the client to comply with changing labour legislation.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising Standard Bank, one of the four largest financial institutions operating in our country.  Historically, Standard Bank employed only permanent employees who worked a fixed number of hours per week, from Monday to Friday.  As the requirements of Standard Bank's business changed in accordance with customer demand, there was a need to introduce a more flexible work force.  This was achieved by the introduction of TES employees.

    Standard Bank currently makes use of circa 5000 temporary employees, most of which are TES employees.  TES employees are not provided with the same terms and conditions of employment as permanent employees and do not have any benefits or work the same business hours as permanent employees. 

    As a result of further developments in the business world, including digitisation and customer self-service, there will a reduction in the number of Standard Bank branch networks, resulting in a reduction of branch staff.  In addition, Standard Bank has recognised that a number of the TES employees currently being utilised are required on a permanent basis and not merely as temporary employees.  Accordingly, Standard Bank intends to employ circa 10 per cent of its temporary workforce on a permanent basis.
    The changes Standard Bank is making in the composition of its employee-base are taking place again the backdrop of the new employment legislation which came into force in January 2015.  Our work on the implementation of this major employee redeployment process for the bank demonstrates once again how we are able to advise on major labour law programmes, helping our clients anticipate and comply with fast-changing legislation affecting their operations.

  • Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr is advising firm anchor client, Eskom, the largest electricity producer in Africa with regard an application brought by the client to review and set aside the ruling issued by the CCMA of November 2014. 

    As a result of our work with Eskom, the Commissioner dismissed to key points in limine raised on behalf of the client:

    The first related to the jurisdiction of the CCMA to arbitrate in an alleged unfair discrimination dispute under the Employment Equity Act given the timing of the case.  The dispute therefore had to be referred to the Labour Court. 

    The second was that NUMSA (a major union – see more above) and its members were obliged to exhaust the remedies provided in terms of a grievance procedure which is a collective agreement between Eskom and NUMSA, prior to referring the dispute to the CCMA.

    These major labour law matters of first impression were of key importance to our client.  We were able to guide the client to a successful outcome thanks to our deep working knowledge of the relevant law.  The decisions set important precedents for the sector in South Africa.
  • Chambers Global 2014–2018 ranks our Employment practice in Band 2: Employment.
  • The Legal 500 EMEA 2009–2017 recommends our Employment practice as Tier 2: Employment and Labour.
  • Best Lawyers International 2013–2014 recognises our practice as ‘Top–listed in South Africa’.
  • Our practice is identified as leading in The International Who’s Who of Management Labour and Employment Lawyers 2013.