Article 15/2022

Psychometric testing is now used by over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA for selection.  Psychometric testing is now used by over 75% of the Times Top 100 companies in the UK for selection.

In Pratten v Afrisun KZN (Pty) Ltd, the labour court recently held the viewpoint that the employer is entitled to use psychometric tests in order to determine behavioural competencies attached to jobs. 

On what evidence did the labour court in the Pratten matter adopt the aforesaid approach?

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  1. A major reason for using psychometric tests to aid selection decisions is that they provide information that cannot be obtained easily in other ways.
  2. If such tests are not used, what we know about an applicant is limited to the information that can be gleaned from an application form, CV, interview and references.
  3. If we wish to gain information about a person’s specific aptitudes and abilities, their personality, attitudes and values, then we have little option but to use psychometric tests.
  4. Psychometric tests add a degree of reliability, validity and standardisation to the selection procedure that is impossible to achieve in other ways – how they do this is best addressed by examining the limitations of the information obtained through interviews, application forms, etc.
  5. Interviews – they are shown to be a very unreliable way to judge a person’s character, because, in essence, it is an unstandardized assessment procedure;  It provides no baseline against which to contrast an interviewee’s differing performance – in addition, it is likely that different interviewers may come to radically different conclusions about the same applicant;  Applicants will also respond differently to different interviewers, quite often saying very different things to them;  What one applicant might say will be interpreted quite differently from one interviewer to the other.
  6. Application forms or CVs – same or similar limitations as set out above exist on the range and usefulness of the information gleaned from these sources.
  7. Work experience and qualifications – while these may be pre-requirements for certain occupations, they are not in themselves determining factors whether a person is likely to perform well or badly; Also, not all applicants had the same opportunities to gain work experience and qualifications.
  8. Academic achievements – this criterion is not always a good predictor of ability or future success and, in any case, not all applicants have had equal opportunities in achieving academic goals.

Evidence presented during the trial identified the following further advantages of utilising psychometric tests over the aforementioned above forms of assessment:

  1. the results can be represented numerically, making it easier to both compare applicants with each other and with pre-defined groups;
  2. they effectively eliminate gender, age, ethnic origin and language differences;
  3. they not only prove objectively a person’s ability but they also assess the person’s potential (and not just achievements to date).

With reference to Potgieter v Samancor Chrome Ltd t/a Tubatse Ferrochrome (2022) 33 SALLR 190 (LC) and Van Rensburg and Others v Department of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (2022) 33 SALLR 280 (LC); (2022) 43 ILJ 2110 (LC).

In what instances does the jurisdiction of the supreme court of appeal trump the jurisdiction of the labour appeal court?

Where an employer prematurely terminates a fixed-term contract and the employee challenges such termination as being unlawful and claims damages and not specific performance, the labour court has up to now ordered damages even though same is an unliquidated claim for damages.