Article 13/2021

Labour Edge

An employee is expected to speak up if he/she objects to an employer’s action.  On what basis did the labour appeal court recently, in Legal Aid South Africa v Theunissen (2019) 30 SALLR 34 (LAC), hold that the failure to speak up against altering a retirement age will result in the employee having acquiesced to the revised retirement age?


  1. In McWilliams v First Consolidated Holdings 1982 (1) All SA 245 (A), the appellate division observed:

‘I accept that quiescence is not necessarily acquiescence and that a party’s failure to reply to a letter asserting the existence of an obligation owed by such party to the writer does not always justify an inference that the assertion was accepted as the truth. But in general, when according to ordinary commercial practice and human expectation firm repudiation of such assertion would be the norm if it was not accepted as correct, such party’s silence and inaction, unless satisfactorily explained, may be taken to constitute an admission by him of the truth of the assertion, or at least will be an important factor telling against him in the assessment of the probabilities and in the final determination of the dispute. And, an adverse inference will the more readily be drawn when the unchallenged assertion had been preceded by correspondence or negotiations between the parties relative to the subject matter of the assertion.’

  1. Notably, in Theunissen, Legal Aid SA had commenced the consultation process in relation to the 2009 terms and conditions by emailing a version to staff in which ‘revisions, changes or new inclusions are indicated in bold italic font, strike through and a line in the right hand margin’. It had thus been expected of the employee to speak up, had he had any objections to the altered retirement age. He had, however, elected not to object, thereby acquiescing to the revised retirement age. He had to be held to this election.

In Minister of Police v M and Others (2016) 27 SALLR 53 (LC); (2017) 38 ILJ 402 (LC), the labour court identified the content of hearsay evidence of a special type affording greater weight than simple hearsay.  What is the approach adopted by the labour court in such case as to the transcript of an internal enquiry admitted as hearsay evidence in terms of s3(1)(c) of the Law of Evidence Amendment Act?  Subsequent to such judgment, the labour court, in Department of Home Affairs v General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council and Others (2019) 30 SALLR 172 (LC); (2019) 40 ILJ 2544 (LC), had the opportunity to apply the approach adopted in the aforesaid judgment to the specific facts of this matter.  In this subsequent judgment, how did the labour court identify such transcript of an internal enquiry as not constituting hearsay of a special type (as required in Minister of Police v M (supra))?

According to the constitutional court, when a referral is made to the CCMA or a bargaining council concerning a dismissal, is it a requirement that the reason for the dismissal (i.e. misconduct, incapacity poor work performance, etc) is also identified in order for such CCMA or bargaining council to require the requisite jurisdiction?

What are the principles governing hearsay evidence as contained in the Law of Evidence Amendment Act 45 of 1998 and applied by the labour court in, inter alia, Swiss South Africa (Pty) Ltd v Louw NO [2006] 4 BLLR 373 (LC) and NUMSA v SA Metal & Engineering Industries Bargaining Council and Others (2014) 25 SALLR 4 (LC)?