Temporary employment contracts in a wide variety of forms are becoming an increasingly common feature of the employment landscape – and leading to a lot of confusion.
You may have read recently that the CCMA has decided that Uber drivers in South Africa are employees rather than independent contractors, although we will have to wait a long while till this matter is fully settled. You may have been following legal decisions in recent years concerning when and how temporary workers can earn permanent employee status. If you follow overseas news you are aware of the term “gig economy” for all the task-based work outside the “standard” job market.
The idea of a “normal” job being a permanent one is dwindling, but the social and legal norms in South Africa have not yet fully caught up with reality. If you listen to most South African politicians talk about the job market, they’re referring mainly to manufacturing or primary sector jobs. It’s so very last century! Since then we have had the rise of the service sector and, well, just everything to do with computers and the web.
The upshot is, very simply, that you should be careful entering into any fixed-term contract. Even though the contract itself may seem simple, complications and uncertainties abound. Come and talk to us first.
There are still good and legal reasons to enter into short-term employment contracts. You just need to be careful.
While there remains uncertainty in this topic, the following rule of thumb can help: Fixed term contracts or project-related contracts should be just that. If you can point to a reason for the limited nature of the contract you are perfectly justified to use such contracts.
However, if you hope to use such contracts because they’re cheaper and easier, or because you just haven’t planned your staffing needs properly, you risk expensive consequences. Equally, if your contracts are above board, but your employees find themselves working after the contract term has expired, or working repeated rolling, fixed-term contacts; watch out.
As usual, sensible business practices will usually keep you out of legal trouble. But just to be sure, check with us first.