Article 7/2024

Is it permissible for an employer, when misconduct occurs, to dismiss employees on the basis of operational requirements?


  • Both the labour appeal court (e g Chauke v Leeson Motors (1998) 19 ILJ 1441 (LAC)) and the labour court (SAMWU v City of Cape Town (2011) 22 SALLR 145 (LC)) have considered whether it is permissible for an employer to dismiss employees on the basis of an operational rationale for collective misconduct.
  • From the aforesaid judgments, it is apparent that, subject to certain safeguards to be implemented and rather tricky questions to be answered, it is permissible to dismiss a group of employees if misconduct is proven but the actual perpetrators not pinpointed.
  • The justification for such dismissal, on the basis of a commercial rationale, has been formulated as follows: ‘The necessity to save the life of the enterprise.’ – apparently, on this basis, the dismissal of innocent workers is justified.
  • n the Cashbuild judgment, the labour appeal court specifically makes reference to the difficulties to be encountered by following the above approach, as set out, inter alia, in FAWU v Premier Foods (2012) 33 ILJ 1779 (LAC) – in brief, these difficulties entail the application of the principles relating to a fault (i e misconduct) scenario to a faultless (i e no intention or negligence) scenario, being dismissal for operational requirements; and the factors to be taken into account in determining and applying the selection criteria justifying the dismissal of the innocent employees.

What is the viewpoint of the labour appeal court, as expressed in SA Municipal Workers’ Union obo Morwe v Tswaing Local Municipality and Another [2023] 2 BLLR 131 (LAC); (2022) 33 SALLR 60 (LAC)?

An employer set out its employees’ rights in disciplinary hearings in the applicable disciplinary code and incorporated same into their employment contracts.

What are the options available to an employee when an employer allegedly owes such employee monies in terms of a contract of employment?