Article 18/2021

Labour Edge

Employment contracts are, by their nature, reciprocal contracts.  What does this principle of reciprocity entail?

In the case of reciprocal contracts, one party undertakes to perform specifically in exchange for a particular counter-performance by the other. In such cases, the principle of reciprocity applies: the first party is not entitled to demand counter-performance from the other party unless the first party has himself or herself performed, or is prepared to perform, as the case may be. Whether the obligations are reciprocal depends on the terms of the contract, actual or implied. In each instance, it is basically a question of interpretation whether the obligations are so closely linked that there exists the relation that one was undertaken specifically in return for the other (see ‘Contract’ Vol 9 LAWSA 3rd ed paragraph 379 – By ADJ van Rensburg, JG Lotz & TAR van Rhijn (updated by RD Sharrock)).



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.