By law, every employer must provide a worker with a written contract of employment on the first day of work. An employer could be criminally charged if no written contract was entered into. A disciplinary code also forms part of the employment contract.
Employers are required to have a disciplinary code that sets out how the worker is expected to behave in the workplace. The disciplinary policy should be tailored to the specific needs of a business to regulate the behaviour of employees in the workplace and also to stipulate the consequences of a worker being guilty of not complying with the rules. It serves as a management aid to an employer to manage the business and ensure that workers are acting in accordance with the company policy. This does not mean that the Operations and Procedures Manual is to be written into the agreement, but that reference be made to where necessary.
When an employer and an employee have a serious disagreement it is referred to as a dispute. At times disputes arise about making new rights, for example employees may demand higher wages, or may want an added benefit, such as a pension fund scheme. Trade unions usually handle the negotiations in these instances. Workers sometimes go on strike or a go-slow to get what they want. A labour lawyer may be able to help by negotiating with the trade union, however the decision to “give-in” to the demands of the workers is ultimately that of the employer and a labour lawyer cannot force the trade union or the workers to “back down”.
A labour lawyer will however, be of greater assistance where an existing right is violated, for example a worker complains of being fired unfairly, or argues that he was treated differently or badly because of his race, religion or because of having an illness like HIV/AIDS. Usually, these disputes are referred to the CCMA and/or the Labour Courts.